The notion of reflexivity in the works of anthropologists and ethnographers was developed during the 1960s and 1970s and grew in the 1980s-1990s as an ethnographic writing form with distinct characteristics. In the context of anthropological research and writing, reflexivity is an important aspect as it emphasises on self-reference. An anthropological study can never be scientific only, it also takes into account the reflection of mind or as oneself. All of a researcher’s work is dependent upon their careful note taking and their success is determined by their way of writing with an intent to impress and influence

What is reflexivity?

The term reflexive is derived from the Latin word ‘reflexus’ which means bent back, which in turn comes from a word ‘reflectere’ which means to reflect. It is related to the researcher's self consiousness, that is his awareness about his relation to the field of knowledge. It is generally examining one’s own perception, belief and practices in the course of research and how they are influencing the research. It involves not only the relationship examination with the informant who provides the data or insight needed for research but also considering his own traits like race, nationality, gender identity, etc. and how they shape the way the informants may see him.

Understanding reflexivity

The concept of reflexivity has two different applications : researcher’s awareness of themselves and cultural or community’s awareness of themselves that he is studying. The former application is based on interpretations he makes on a subject of study according to his own perceptions. Taking an example, if two ethnographers are sent to study a culture/community, their writings might be different because of different interpretations.

Cultural awareness of a researcher implies how he wants to be perceived by the people of the community he is studying. There is a possibility that research participants fear to provide data because of their view towards researcher

Biasness is a problem in research, there are chances the culture/community a researcher is studying is biassed towards him and the researcher may also have certain assumptions towards the culture he is studying because of personal background. Both impact the research, and unconsciously shape the types of observations made. It can be overcome by telling about the researcher's own background and belief.

Figure 1: Image depicting the selection of participants

Types of reflexivity

There are three types of reflexivities

  • Personal reflexivity-It refers to the process of reflecting our own beliefs, values, and life experience in order to interpret the impact it has on research.

  • Functional reflexivity- It refers to the process of examining one’s role as a researcher as it concerns the practice and procedure of conducting research.

  • Reflexive thematic analysis- It is an approach to thematic analysis as it appreciates the subjective knowledge of a researcher as the primary key to determine knowledge from data

Importance of reflexivity in qualitative research

Reflexivity is necessary in any qualitative research because it is subjective in nature and it is majorly dependent on the information provided by the research participants or informants. One of the prime roles of reflexivity is to be aware of biases of researchers and how they impact the research.

The reflexivity benefits qualitative research in the following manner

  • Accountability − By giving reflexivity practices by the researcher in the final abstract, readers get a better understanding of the research and make it accountable.

  • Trustworthiness − reflexivity gives validity to the research when the researcher honestly and openly tells about his belief, personal background and underlying biases and thus improves people’s perception.

  • Clarity − Reflexivity helps the researcher to present the study in a more clear way and with precision thus giving a better understanding on how the conclusion was derived.

  • Personal growth − It is not only beneficial to the research and readers but also to the researcher by engaging him in genuine self analysis.


Reflexivity is the awareness itself whether cultural or researcher’s that impacts the study. Reflexivity represents a literary aspect of writing in anthropology which carves ethnographic texts. Anthropologists are not pure scientists, their all types of writing like diaries, poems, monographs and ethnographic novels form a very essential branch of literature which is very much similar to travel writing. It is more related to cultural and linguistic anthropology than archaeological and biology types. Reflexivity validates the research and provides a better understanding of the research and its process.


Q1. What is Selection bias?

Ans. Selection bias is the biasness made by a researcher while selecting a field of research, research participants, type of questions to ask, selecting things to tell about oneself and interpreting data.

Q2. What is a reflexive turn?

Ans. Reflexive turn is meant by the considerable change of perspective in the 1980s affecting social science, specifically anthropology and its ethnography; as a result ethnographers started to look more analytically and critically at the ways in which ethnographic fieldwork is produced and written.

Q3. What is meta textualisation?

Ans. Meta textualisation is a concept of comparison of intertextual discourse by critically introspecting one subject and with the other text.