Summary of BCM210 Weekly Topics

This is a summary of some of the content of lectures weeks 2 – 6 for BCM210. For a more in-depth explanation of the topics, you can look at the slides or recordings on Moodle.

Reflexivity

When researching, it is essential to be aware and self-conscious of your own position in the world, your ideals, views and opinions and how these subjective views can affect or alter the research you are undertaking. This awareness is called reflexivity. The key point of reflexivity is that we have to acknowledge that when undertaking research, we are in the world that we are trying to understand.

The Robert Wood Johnson foundation has a comprehensive guide for designing, writing, reviewing and reporting qualitative research, and they have a useful one-page resource about reflexivity that defines it, shows its relationship to bias and gives tips on using reflexivity in research.

Social Responsibility

Axiology is based on our values, ethics and appreciation on how things should be. Shawn Wilson defines axiology as the ethics and morals that guide our search for knowledge. As researchers, we aim to change or improve reality, so ethical principles must be applied. This is where social responsibility comes into research.

All researchers need to explain how they are going to address these problems. For research to be socially responsible, there are some important steps you should take.

  • Identify the problem; find the themes and angles
  • Find what does the research aim to solve and change
  • Find what harm you might do; what are the social risks?

Responsible research conduct doesn’t automatically make you socially responsible.

The University of Sydney has a guide on how to conducting ethical research with limited risks and minimised harm. It outlines why researchers need to be socially responsible.

Critical Judgement

When faced with a claim, as a researcher you need to use critical judgement to figure out if a claim is true. There are four steps that you should undertake when judging the credibility of claims and resources.

  1. Critical attention to factual information should activate a curiosity about a source (check the facts!)
  2. Critically investigate credentials (who is claiming this, who wrote it, who researched it; why?)
  3. Reflexivity requires us to look critically at our own judgement of claims (this means that we must acknowledge that how we judge a source (informal and academic) is informed by who we are and what the information means to us)
  4. Investigate as much as you can to find out how the claim was made

Engaging in these four steps is part of your methodology when completing research. Methodology is how knowledge is gained – is is asking “how do I find out more about this”. Finding out more involves this process of critical judgement; reading broadly on the topic, cross-checking findings, investigating what methods were used and thinking about whether this source is useful to you as a researcher. A tool that helps you find out whether a source is useful, and would help UoW students with critical judgement when looking for sources is Ulrichs Web (you have to access this through the Uow Library portal in order to log in).

Accountability

Accountability is, simply, who and what we are accountable for as researchers. We can try to find out who we are accountable to by asking these questions:

  • Who is expecting the research to be delivered?
  • Who is helping to do the research?
  • Who may be affected by the research?
  • And evaluating how you know these answers.

When researching, we are accountable and responsible for:

  • The timely delivery of results
  • The fair and honest reporting of problems
  • Making modest claims that the evidence genuinely supports
  • And knowing how this will be achieved.

Accountability is linked to ethics, which is defined as the management of human accountability that protects integrity of research practice and the safety of researchers and research participants from harm. UoW has an ethical code of conduct that outlines accountability and responsibilities for researches at the university.

Respect

One of the key values of ethical conduct is respect. Every project has an implied or obvious relationship between the research and the lives of others, which needs to be respected by the researcher at all times. This includes respect for humans, research merit and integrity, justice and having the welfare of participants as a priority (beneficence).

There are six stages of respectful research:

  • Project design
  • Reflexivity
  • Information and consent
  • Data collection
  • Transcribing, analysing
  • Reporting and impact

Questions that will help you be a more respectful researcher are

  • Who is the potential end user for your research project?
  • How will you recruit people to be engaged in your research project?
  • When you are done, how will you communicate what you did with respect to others?
  • Can your project develop as symmetric, respectful and reciprocal? How?

The key thing to remember when researching is that the work begins when you show up. UoW has a document outlining how to write consent forms for participants in a research project.

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