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Emotionally InvolvedReview - Emotionally Involved
The Impact of Researching Rape
by Rebecca Campbell
Routledge, 2001
Review by April Chase
Jun 6th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 23)

In Emotionally Involved, Rebecca Campbell tackles the tough topic of how research is affected by the emotional reactions of the researchers, and vice versa.† Although social scientists have long been trained to maintain strict impartiality, distancing themselves from their research subjects as much as possible, Campbell argues that such a stance is neither possible, nor really valuable.

Campbell based her book on a "research the researcher" project that she carried out in conjunction with a study of rape victims.†† She was inspired when a victim she was interviewed asked her how she could think straight listening to so many stories of pain all day.† Realizing that the question was very pertinent, and that her research certainly did affect her personally, she decided to do "a systematic study of researcher's emotions."

"Historically, social scientists have been silent, absent researchers.† We are ghostwriters for our own work.† The work "was done," the experiment "was conducted," the setting "was observed," the results "were obtained."† This affinity for the passive voice reflected not only stylistic preferences but also ideological norms regarding the researchers' role in the scientific process," she writes.† Many scientists believe that their cognitive and affective responses to their research might influence the results, and have systematically learned not to feel to avoid potential bias.

Some researchers, however, have learned that emotions "are also capable of providing information and knowledge," according to Campbell.† As emotional reactions are somewhat unavoidable, particularly with difficult topics like child abuse, domestic violence and rape, the insights gained from the more visceral connection can be put to good use, adding a more human dimension to research results.

As a woman studying rape, Campbell states that she felt a definite connection with the victims she interviewed, because of the realization that she could easily become a victim, too.† The emotions she and other researchers on her team felt - loss, pain, fear, anger, and even hope -- affected them deeply, and gave them a deeper understanding of what rape is really like and how it impacts survivors, their families and others in the community than the rather dry textbook material they all read to prepare for the study.† By not conveying the emotionality of an inherently emotional topic, the textbooks did not paint a completely accurate picture.

Campbell advocates an "Ethic of Caring" for researchers, in which emotional reactions to their subject matter would be not only allowed, but encouraged - and researched in its own right. She offers information as to how she set up her "research the researcher" protocol, and discussions of other methods such as journaling that can be used to track a researchers personal responses to their research.

This book will be fascinating to any researcher who wants to understand and utilize their emotional reactions to their work, and the clear, direct writing style makes it enjoyable reading.† Although primarily directed to social scientists in a research setting, this book provides some valuable insight into how to deal with emotions in relation to work, which will make it a valuable resource for anyone working with highly volatile situations, such as social workers, crisis line volunteers or rape victim's advocates.† A most interesting study!

 

© 2003 April Chase

 April Chase is a freelance journalist and book reviewer who lives in Western Colorado. She is a regular contributor to a number of publications, including The Business Times of Western Colorado and Dream Network Journal.


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