Jul 4, 2008

on the use of «labels» for writing research

McKechnie, L., Julien, H., Pecoskie, J.L. & Dixon, C.M. (2006). The presentation of the information user in reports of information behaviour research. Information Research, 12(1) paper 278 [Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/12-1/paper278.html]:
"(...) the terms partner and participant, may perhaps be regarded as the most inclusive of all as they construct the individual as a member of the research team and an active player in the research process."
When addressing participants in a research, McKechnie et al (2006) suggest to use the words «participants» or «partners» since it acknowledges their active paper in the research process and denotes a more centralized role in the research than the use of words such as «subjects» or «objects» that distance the researched from the research. Also, there was a correlation with the data collection methods used where the participant label was used:
"The important role of the user or research participant was evident in the method section of some of the papers. Some data collection practices reported by authors were designed to bring, and were effective at bringing, researchers closer to users and capturing their perspectives. These included open-ended interviews, face-to-face interviews, close interaction over an extended period of time, audio-recording of interviews, full transcription of audio-recorded interviews and participant checking. Conversely, data collection practices such as transaction log analysis or the use of secondary survey data served to distance the researcher from the researched."
The core of the paper is concerned not only with the labels a researcher uses, but how this labels might reflect how the researcher sees the participants. To be avoided, specially if one is using the qualitative paradigm, reports that address participants by numbers, by letters, by pie charts, etc., not giving voice to the participants.

This is one of the differences that might be an issue when presenting my research in an engineers context. They might say that I used a lot of quotations and little aggregated information. Also, it may reflect how I see the world of engineers: my pre-conceptions of what it is expected of my research in the context of the Department I'm going to present my PhD.