“Listen and Let It Flow”: A Researcher and Participant Reflect on the Qualitative Research Experienceedit
Ethnographic research involves prolonged and often personal interaction between the researcher and research participants. This paper is a collaboration between a social work researcher and a research participant who became acquainted through the researcher’s ethnographic fieldwork for her dissertation. Despite differing in numerous and significant ways, not the least of which are age, class, education, and race, the two women developed a quasi-friendship after the researcher exited the field–a time when many researcher-participant relationships wane or terminate entirely. The two recorded and transcribed a series of informal conversations wherein they reflected on their experiences in the research process. Of particular salience is the research participant’s perspective of the immaterial benefits she experienced through her participation in the research and her perception of the qualities of a “good” qualitative researcher: one who approaches listening as a practice and cultivates relationships with participants slowly and naturally. The authors’ reflections indicate that participants may be able to offer valuable feedback on the research experience, and researchers might use participants’ unique perspectives to alter their research approach and/or techniques.