Power relations and reciprocity: Dialectics of knowledge construction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we suggest a theoretical framework of knowledge construction by employing the concept of dialectics to power relationships between researcher and participants. Power distribution in research is perceived as dichotomous and asymmetrical in favor of the researcher, creating unequal power relations that make exploitation possible. Acknowledging such exploitation has led to a critical stance and attempts to bridge gaps through egalitarianism and empowerment of participants. Some scholars have focused on shifting expert knowledge differentials between researcher and participants throughout the research project. Others have evaluated such gaps as a source of knowledge construction. In the present work we applied a dialectical approach to understanding research relationships, suggesting reciprocity as their defining attribute, regardless of symmetry or asymmetry and as a source of knowledge construction. In this article we recommend avoiding a taken-for-granted attitude, because we see it as a direct obstacle to the construction of knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-429
Number of pages8
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • epistemology
  • ethics / moral perspectives
  • knowledge construction
  • power / empowerment
  • relationships
  • research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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