How biography influences research: an autoethnography

WATERS, Jaime (2016). How biography influences research: an autoethnography. British Journal of Community Justice, 14 (2), 45-60.

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Inspired by Professor Yvonne Jewkes’ plenary speech at the 2013 British Society of Criminology conference, this paper focuses on the experiences of a researcher setting out on her journey into the field of criminological research. In the burgeoning tradition of autoethnography, it will tell the story of how aspects of the researcher’s own ‘biography’ affected the data collection process in a study of ‘hidden’ older illegal drug users in the UK. The research employed snowball sampling and semi-structured interviews and at the outset great difficulties were encountered which were caused, in part, by the researcher’s age, nationality, professional standing and cultural awareness. However, as the researcher’s own personal biography developed over the long duration of the study, some of these problems were alleviated. In the process something of the nature of the participants themselves was revealed, namely their reticence to be too revealing to an ‘outsider’ about their illegal pastime, the manner in which their illegal drug use took place in a specific cultural milieu, and the extent to which they saw their drug use as being an unremarkable and normal part of their life. By the conclusion of the study, a by now older, more experienced and acculturated researcher was able to see this with far greater clarity. As criminology increasingly takes account of researcher biography, the argument presented here suggests that not only can it have significant impacts upon the research process, but even over the duration of a single study developments in the biography of the researcher can alter the nature of their relationship with research subjects and contribute to a greater understanding of them.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Law Research Group
Page Range: 45-60
Depositing User: Jaime Waters
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2016 16:32
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 00:23

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