16 Pages

Insider Perspectives or Stealing the Words out of Women’s Mouths:

Interpretation in the Research Process

This article examines the ways in which social class differences between the researcher and female respondents affect data analysis. I elaborate the ways in which my class background, just as much as my gender, affects all stages of the research process from theoretical starting points to conclusions. The influences of reflexivity, power and ‘truth’ on the interpretative process are developed by drawing on fieldnotes and interviews from an ethnographic study of women’s involvement in their children’s primary schooling. Complexities of social class are explored both in relation to myself as the researcher and to how the women saw themselves. I argue that there is a thin dividing line between the understandings which similar experiences of respondents bring to the research process and the element of exploitation implicit in mixing up one’s own personal history with those of women whose experience of the same class is very different. Identification can result in a denial of the power feminist researchers exercise in the selection and interpretation of data. However, researchers are similarly powerful in relation to women from very different class backgrounds to their own, and I attempt to draw out problematic issues around power and ‘truth’ in relation to the middle-class women whom I interviewed. I conclude by reiterating that, from where I am socially positioned, certain aspects of the data are much more prominent than others and as a consequence interpretation remains an imperfect and incomplete process.