The Reflexivity Memo: Developing student researcher identity through writing

The Reflexivity Memo: Developing student researcher identity through writing

Overview:  This writing activity asks students to understand their various positionalities as researchers/writers and to recognize how their embodied socialized practices shape their research questions and practices.

Activity title: The Reflexivity Memo: Developing student-researcher identity through writing

Author: Jennifer Johnson

Activity brief description:  For this activity, students engage in a series of writing prompts that asks students to situate their various positionalities as researchers and writers in order to recognize how one's habitus - our embodied socialized practices - shape our understandings of the relationships we explore in our research and, thus, the very questions we ask to conduct research. Different from a reflective memo, a reflexive memo starts from an analysis of one's position in a social structure and asks students to understand different relationships of power vis a vis researcher positionality. This activity asks students to be vulnerable by understanding privilege, bias, and affordances of one's positionality while conducting research.

Course: PWR 1 or PWR 2

Activity Length and Schedule: The activity takes about 30 minutes in class. I would suggest adding in some additional time for small group share outs. This activity could also be used as a homework activity.

Activity Goals:  Through this assignment, students will 

  • see their own investment in their research and why it matters
  • understand their ethos as a researcher
  • think about biases and related counterarguments in a research conversation
  • understand different relationships of power vis a vis researcher positionality
  • see other researcher positionalities in context

Activity Details:

  1. Introduce Bourdieu's concepts (researcher positionality in social structure, Bourdieu 2004; the habitus, Bourdieu 1977) as an anchoring point for the activity (this should be done in-class).
  2. Students and the instructor freewrite in response to a two-part prompt about researcher positionality. See student handout for prompts.