My experience with curiosity and reflexivity in this research project has confirmed ideas touched on in lectures. This has been my first time exploring a research topic reflexively and it has encouraged me to explore the ways in which qualities such as curiosity can help me develop as a researcher. Curiosity played a large role in the choosing of my research question and my reflexivity as a researcher enabled me to become an invested stakeholder.
Similarly, Finlay states that reflexivity has become a “defining feature of qualitative research.” He explains that researchers “attempt to be aware of their role in the (co)-construction of knowledge” and “make explicit how intersubjective elements impact on data collection and analysis in an effort to enhance the trustworthiness, transparency and accountability of their research” (Finlay 2002, p. 211-212).
Pursuing my chosen research question was the result of my need to understand the ways in which we can relay knowledge on important topics. When thinking about the ways in which we influence our own research, I can be understood to have a vested interest in the topic I researched as I have previously studied psychology, had a family history of mental illness and myself struggled with the pressures that come with studying.
After developing a deeper understanding of accountability as a researcher, I realised that it was a value quite central to my project. I felt a sense of accountability to the teachers who helped guide me and would be marking my work, the students who completed my survey and the stakeholders I felt would be be affected by the research. These stakeholders include myself as a reflexive researcher, the University of Wollongong, students, psychological practices, parents, other universities and organisations such as Beyond Blue and the Butterfly Foundation.
The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) explains that “the relationship between researchers and research participants is the ground on which human research is conducted.” As this report utilised the answers of students via a survey, I felt it was important to connect those who provided first-hand research to project updates via my blog. I used Moodle, Twitter and WordPress to recruit individuals studying ‘BCM212 Research Practices’ as part of the Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies for my survey and a link to my blog was provided in the information sheet that accompanied the survey questions.
It was also important that I provide stakeholders with the ability to monitor the progress of the report therefore I communicated updates by sharing blog posts, links on social media and made use of hashtags. I also added my UOW email address as a way for readers to contact me on my blog and twitter and have presented my research project not as a subject assessment but rather in a more professional manner.
The MEAA’s Code of Ethics (2017) states that as researchers we are to “report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts” and that we must “not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.” Ideally, I would have liked a generous amount of responses to my survey in order for me to gain an accurate understanding of the awareness around the services provided by UOW yet as I felt a sense of accountability to my readers, I disclosed the fact that I unfortunately only received 20.
The topic of mental health is of a sensitive nature therefore I conducted my research respectfully and with full accountability to others. When considering the practical and ethical dimensions of my research project, both positives and negatives were evident. In deciding to use a survey, there was an ethical concern and inability for me to ask students about their health therefore I focused on asking questions solely on the awareness of services provided by UOW.
This research project has enabled me to develop research values such as curiosity, reflexivity and accountability and these values will impact all future research projects. I have explored how curiosity influences my research practice and reflexivity has allowed me to connect curiosity to learning and development. In turn, I hope this project can help shape attitudes around seeking help, improve the services provided by UOW and make both students and the general public aware of the pressures that studying can bring.