The problem of bias in qualitative research particularly is still debated in methodology texts and there is a lack of agreement on how much researcher influence is acceptable, whether or not it needs to be “controlled,” and how it might be accounted for. Denzin (1994) refers to this as “the interpretive crisis” (p. 501). I chose to make my experiences, opinions, thoughts, and feelings visible and an acknowledged part of the research process through keeping reflective journals and using them in writing up the research. The aim of this paper is to show how reflective journals were used in engaging with the notion of creating transparency in the research process, and explore the impact of critical self-reflection on research design.
Self-reflection, Qualitative Research, and Research Journals
The author would like to thank the Centre for Research and Graduate Studies, Charles Sturt University, for providing financial assistance that supported the writing of this paper.
Recommended APA Citation
Ortlipp, M. (2008). Keeping and Using Reflective Journals in the Qualitative Research Process . The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 695-705. Retrieved from http://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol13/iss4/8
Learning isn’t just about learning stuff, or learning how to do stuff; it’s also about learning about how you learn, and how you can help yourself learn better. Reflective journals are sometimes used to help you look back on what you’ve learnt, and consider how you’ve learnt it. This can make the experience richer, and make you more self-aware. As a twist on a common phrase might put it, “Don’t just do something: stand there and think about it!”
Reflective journals can also be really helpful for identifying gaps in your knowledge and skills, and for thinking about how you can address them. This is the kind of information that you can share with your tutor so that they can help you to plan what to do next. It is also the basis for 'Personal Development Planning', so you might also want to find out more about how your department supports 'PDP'.
They are also great for providing evidence of your learning to potential employers, or to others interested in what you’ve gained from university. It can be hard to be honest and self-critical about what’s gone well in your learning, and what hasn’t. But to become a fully autonomous learner, it’s what’s required from you; and no-one else can do it for you. Use the resources in the right-hand menu for support.