Being a Researcher
I believe that research is a process. It is a step-by-step procedure of capturing, analyzing, documenting and validating requirements to develop a research paper. The research process provides a researcher the necessary skills and groundwork in discovering information to complete an effective research. The main entities, while conducting research, include your subject matter, its environment and, more importantly, yourself.
In the next couple of months, I intend to conduct research on the difficulties of international students in speaking and learning the English language. I have determined that I will conduct qualitative research through my investigation. I already have a big picture of what I intend to explore on this study. Beyond the topic itself, however, I also need to understand how my culture and background as an Arabian from Middle East, my gender and the norms that I grew up with may possibly affect how I execute and manage my research. This perspective is when the researcher allows himself to view his investigation and explain the social aspect of it. This point of view is where positionality comes in the picture. According to an expert, “knowledge is valid when it takes into account the knower’s specific position in any context, a position always defined by gender, race, class and other socially significant dimensions .” Positionality, from the point of view of a qualitative researcher, explains that the vital characteristics of an individual are the indicators of his relational stance in relation to his study. The positionality affects how a researcher sees and interprets the information he gathers during his investigation, and overtime, can change the context of his output.
I am a white male from Middle East, and my native language is Arabic. Soon, I will conduct my research, and it is imperative that I understand my positionality with respect to the topic of my investigation. As an Arabian, we grow up where parents teach and instruct their children to place a great importance on educational achievements, always respect authority, maintain responsibility for extended families and relatives and show self-control. It is also a mindset for us that school failure is a sign of lack of will, therefore, requires restrictions from parents. Most of the time, we tend to become conforming and dependent and willing to put family welfare first over other individual wishes. Being brought up through the values of persistence and determination to achieve our goal, this would come out naturally as I embark on the nitty-gritty of my research. It will also allow the progress of my work to unfold without getting impatient, not exercising manipulation and be controlling just to get hold of the data that I need. Although being reserve and passive is quite typical among us, I should exercise assertiveness more, while maintaining respect to my subjects, to explore various samples for my research including dealing students from different cultures and communities and gender. A good qualitative research must see the sights of different phenomenon to yield detailed, substantial description, depth inquiry and capture direct quotations from different people . Coming from a culture that place great responsibility to the man of the family, I regard myself to put no excuse not to deliver my output on this research. On the other hand, I can also see myself battling with personal beliefs and opinions as I go through my investigation. Doing a qualitative research should allow me to distinguish and balance my positionality against the beliefs and opinions that I am going to encounter.
Relationship with Others
With my upcoming research, it is vital that I understand the dynamics between my subject matters and myself as a researcher. The focus of my study includes international students, whose native tongue is not the English language, and tries to learn and speak the language itself. Eventually, I will know that they are from different heritage and history. This learning is through speaking with them, understanding their physical attributes, hearing how the tone of their voice and accent and researching about the memoirs of where they come from. Just like me, these students have different background, norms they grew up with as well as cultures and traditions that they have to live with as they go through school in different countries. Most of them are speaking the English language as a second language, and it appears as deficit on their part. On the other hand, there are international students who are already bilingual and have much to teach about bridging cultures. As I go along my research, I will face unique life experiences in the face of these students, and as a person and as a researcher, I should respect them. By respecting them, they become knowledge makers themselves . I will be open-minded and allow each of my subject matter to declare individualized knowledge and skills that will provide collective understanding. The respect that I will establish among the participants of my study should go beyond enduring our differences, but respect the difference among us to help me understand the bigger picture of the situation through diverse perspectives.
Moreover, understanding the positionality of other people will allow me to listen to them because they are the only one who can unique claim to their knowledge of their culture. By doing so, I may discover that there is a possibility of constraint in my views through the limits of my experiences. If I identify this as early as now, I will be more than willing to listen and talk to people and realize that it is likely that I make assumptions based on my positionality, and this may turn out as bias to others. Only by paying attention to my subject matters will I become responsive to the theoretical restraints of my experiences and individuality . Perhaps, during the course of my investigation, I may share my view to my participants that I extracted from the concrete experience of being a student from a different country. This experience may have a meaning to the others because they may grasp that the incompleteness of their knowledge about a certain theory is because of the difference of our world.
Furthermore, being an international student myself gives me an advantage of understanding and awareness of context sensitivity. Given my background, it helps for me to be cautious about and even doubtful about generalizing across my subject matter. As a qualitative researcher, I should sensitively produce comparative cases and patterns for potential transferability and adaptation of my results and findings in a new setting.
Relationship with the System
My future research is about the international students and their difficulties in speaking the English language. Fundamentally, the participants of this study are students whose birthplace are not in the US, but are currently here either to live and study or merely study in an educational institution in the US. The native language of my participants is not English and may come from various races and class. Obviously, one of the considerations in my study is that the medium of instruction in the classroom of an international student is English.
As a researcher, it is possible that I may encounter challenges and barriers that can contribute to the quality and depth of my research. Beyond my positionality and my participant’s race, class and gender, it is also worth considering that there are attributes from the perspective of the communities and people’s experiences that can affect my research. One of which is the cultural barrier. Cultural barrier can include differences in cultural values regarding risk taking and openness, language transfer and intervention. It also includes dislocation and movement of the family or an individual from one place to another. Part of my being researcher is my fondness for travelling. It is through these voyages that I learn so many things about different cultures and communities and the beauty of the place itself. On the other, some people are not into wandering from one place to another. Sometimes, the reason for their transfer is a family decision or worst country or community issues. This occurrence will contribute to how an individual learn to adapt to the new culture and language . Government support and policies are also affecting the lives and experiences of the people and its community. Also, another barrier to people’s experience is the access to information and information technology. This event is not a problem to developed countries. The bigger picture is that there are almost 7 billion people in the world whom we need to make sure that has access to immense powers of information technology .
Given these barriers, as a researcher, I can help in promoting awareness of what is happening around my community and how it affects the experiences of the people around it. I can expose factual data about the impact of these challenges to their lives regardless of their gender, class and race. Also, I can share and disseminate this information and make it accessible online. This distribution of the information is also doable through the word of mouth, as well as encourages other researchers like me to explore more on the issues and make it known to the world.
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Sultana, F. (2007). Reflexivity, Positionality and Participatory Ethics: Negotiating Dilemmas in International Research. ACME Editorial Collective, 374-385.
Takacs, D. (2003). How Does Your Positionality Bias Your Epistemology. The NEA Higher Education Journal, 27-38.