Processes of reflectivity: Knowledge construction in qualitative research

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The aim of this article is to suggest a useful approach demonstrating the focal role of processes of reflectivity in qualitative research. In particular, we distinguish between levels of analysis and analytical procedures for generating and organizing the interpretation of data and meanings in knowledge construction. We argue that reflective processes simultaneously involve both a state of mind and an active engagement. Within this context, reflective processes may refer to deliberate awareness involving both a contemplative stance (state of mind) and intentional activity aimed at recognizing differentness and generating knowledge (active engagement). Specifically, we identify four levels of reflection: observation, informants' accounts, text deliberation, and contextualization and reconstruction. Simultaneously, we suggest several practical analytical procedures of reflectivity, which emanate from a dialectical line of thinking, including figure and ground, pre-existing expectations, apparent contradictions and opposites, and turning points (epiphanies). The dialectical approach to qualitative inquiry presented here maintains that discrepancies and opposites found at one level of analysis may be reconciled at a higher level of conceptual integration. During this process, the researcher becomes aware of the emergence of new knowledge by being attuned to a sense of differentness. We demonstrate the application of this model utilizing a concrete example taken from a research project evaluating a rehabilitation program for imprisoned male batterers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-171
Number of pages20
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • construction
  • dialectics
  • knowledge
  • levels of analysis
  • qualitative analysis
  • reflectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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