positionality

Positionality Pit Stop … aka ‘Keeping it Real’

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Blog Post by Raona Williams @REFITClass, an #EdDBlogger

The excerpt found in the picture above is taken from Stein’s (1998) interpretation of words from the late Professor Stuart Hall into the concept of a topic that is close to my heart. I could write an enlightening post on this but the best place for this is on my reflective blog

This blog post instead is marking the notable focus of ‘looking inward’ to relate positionality in my doctoral journey. After this weekend of being inspired by students and professionals sharing poignant information I now will begin working on identifying my own ‘academic positionality’ within my work.

I remember coming across the word ‘positionality’ amongst a range of other ‘new words’ when I first began my doctorate journey.

I dismissed the word as just being a long unnecessary group of letters to extend the word ‘position’ and continued my focus of loving to write about topical interests that enlightened me from academic reading.

Over the course of the last year or so, I have continued to read this ‘P’ word in journal articles. I have continued to hear the word being spoken out of mouths of academic mentors, lecturers, and a new collegiate I am loving gaining a closer allegiance with.

Up until today I still thought ‘POSITIONALITY’ was just a ‘pretty’ word to provide an explanation of why you think the way you think. Or why you do what you do’. I guess in a way it really is that. BUT… it is more.

Positionality in my eyes is linked to place – think of this – can you describe the position of something without relating to its location?

Positionality in research is linked to a mental location not just an explanatory or physical place.

It relates to WHERE and HOW the researcher feels they are placing or shaping their input into the research.

This is fundamental to the research question(s) they are seeking to answer.

Put it simply: If you are choosing a holiday destination – what shapes/makes/places you into the position to want to take the holiday in the first place?

This weekend concept of positionality has become a clear and important component to research and understanding yourself really and where you are in ‘society’.

I honestly thought I could actually complete my doctoral research staying quite neutral and as a ‘fly on the wall’ looking in. Now I cannot dream of doing this – I need to fly to my location, state my place and ‘keep it real’ 🙂

Since completing a small pilot study linked to my doctoral research (empirical research as it is also called) and after this weekend, I have recognized the importance of stating your influence as a doctoral researcher to show how it affects your work – it is also termed, your ‘researcher bias’. Floyd and Artur (2012) relates the concept of positionality to the resultant impact being an ‘inside or outside researcher.

Not stating the inside/outsider researcher aspect to your work affects the validity to your critical argument. I believe it leads the reader into a false truth.

Similarly, not revealing your positionality can be even worse – this is because if the reader does not know where you are coming from – how on earth can they work out what you are trying to say and where you are going with your argument and point?

So I have reached a significant pit stop in my doctorate journey. In fact, I will go further. I am driving to a showroom and changing my vehicle all together! I feel like I’ve been in my sports car for a while now – loving the cruise and flossing in my ride into the doctoral sunset..but now I’m going to drive with an upgraded and different model, altered spec, greater purpose and to some areas where the new terrain may get rough!

I’m now embarking on revealing with a self made route-planner which sections of my life experiences, knowledge base and exposure to society have led me to ‘the positionality bias of my epistemology’ -TRANSLATION?….

I will now work on making the path clear in showing how my ‘world’ has shaped what/how/why I want to answer my research questions(s)

I am now excited about DISCOVERING MY POSITIONALITY: fine-tuning my research, reviewing my reflective diaries, unpicking my research passions and interpreting/uncovering my life and world influences in purposeful relation to my doctoral research.

References

Mark Stein (1998): The black British Bildungsroman and the Transformation of Britain: connectedness across difference

Alan Floyd and Linet Arthur (2012) Researching from within: external and internal ethical engagement

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