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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
© 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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