Positionality in research relates to an individual’s social and political perspective that determines how they carry out a project, their areas of interest, and how they interpret findings.


Positionality in research relates to an individual’s social and political perspective that determines how they carry out a project, their areas of interest, and how they interpret findings. The researchers’ positionality influences qualitative research in many cases. Different individuals carrying out identical research would likely go about it differently and interpret the results differently. Notably, positionality defines where an individual ‘is coming from’ about their interpretation of nature (Holmes, 2020). In many cases, positionality is influenced by an individual’s social awareness, know-how, and general assumptions about their surroundings. Individual values also play an important role in determining positionality; hence their upbringing and life experiences could determine how they perceive social and political occurrences in context.

Positionality is usually influenced by either fixed or culturally ascribed. An individual’s race or gender are fixed factors of positionality that may determine how they perceive things, while life experiences could be described as more culturally oriented. For instance, women may have different views from men about equality due to their gender. In the same way, colored Americans would most likely react differently to the unfortunate death of George Floyd in 2020. Another case example is my support for the Republican party that is largely influenced by the fact that my family members have republican ties.


Reflexivity in research requires individuals to disclose their stand, beliefs, or practices before beginning work. The term is closely related to positionality in that reflexivity allows others to understand the researcher’s beliefs, motivation, and perspective on certain issues. Normally, this practice requires self-consciousness to assess one’s cultural, social, or political inclinations that may make an individual have certain preconceptions when conducting research.

Reflexivity is important when reviewing research reports, particularly with regards to their objectivity. This approach raises the credibility of research work and further enhances our understanding of the data and findings (Dodgson, 2019). Notably, allowing one’s personal experiences and inclinations to influence research could negatively influence the design methods used and interpretation of findings, particularly for qualitative research projects. Professionally, I noted that many medical journals and research publications usually have a footnote highlighting the researchers’ interests, motivation, and bias, which follows the principle of reflexivity in research.  


Researcher-as-instrument is a principle that highlights the important role taken by researchers, especially in qualitative research. Notably, researchers are an active component of research work in that they experience phenomena either directly or directly, perceive and interpret these findings. Consequently, a researcher’s makeup, e.g., social or political orientation, and perceptions held, can play a crucial role in determining research outcomes. Qualitative research particularly relates to the researcher-as-instrument principle in that an individual requires to use their sensory organs to observe and interpret data. This important role researchers play is crucial to the construction of ideas that form the basis of qualitative research.

Several feminist researchers have criticized quantitative methods that reduce the role of researcher-as-instrument, noting that they miss the skill of a live researcher when interacting with data firsthand. Researchers can analyze data that they have experienced firsthand compared to secondary data (Barett, 2007). A good example is an interviewing process that has resulted in intense debates on the importance of researchers regarding the concept of the researcher-as-instrument. This debate has influenced further research on the effectiveness of various interviewing methods based on the role played by interviewers and how they interact with interviewees during the process (Pezalla, 2012). However, this principle has also been criticized due to the elevated role of the researcher in experimentation and analysis. Notably, the researcher’s positionality could greatly influence how they go about the research and how they interpret findings. Consequently, two researchers taking similar studies may arrive at different conclusions about a subject matter based on the social, cultural, political, and other inclinations driven by preconceptions.     

Adjectives to Describe Qualitative Researcher


Qualitative researchers should also be detailed in every aspect of their study to ensure the objectivity of their work. Firstly, prior research should be done to scope out the study problem and provide a good background for a given project or study. Furthermore, noting that qualitative research is prone to bias error, researchers should design comprehensive data collection methods……