Uncloaking the Researcher: Boundaries in Qualitative Research
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Qualitative researchers are expected to engage in reflexivity, whereby they consider the impact of their own social locations and biases on the research process. Part of this practice involves the consideration of boundaries between the researcher and the participant, including the extent to which the researcher may be considered an insider or an outsider with respect to the area of study. This article explores the three different processes by which boundaries are made and deconstructed, and the ethical complexities of this boundary making/(un)making process. This paper examines the strengths and limitations of three specific scenarios: 1) when the researcher is fully cloaked and hiding their positionalities; 2) when there is strategic undressing to reveal some positionalities; 3) when there is no cloak, and all positionalities are shared or revealed. This paper argues that it is insufficient to be reflexive about boundaries through acknowledgement, and instead advocates reflexivity that directly examines the processes by which social locations are shared and hidden during the research process.