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Edited by Russell W. Belk
Chapter 24: Framing the Research and Avoiding Harm: Representing the Vulnerability of Consumers
Stacey Menzel Baker and James W. Gentry Researchers who work with qualitative data, like photographers, are instruments of data collection and at the center of the interpretive process (Patton, 1990). When a photographer prepares to take a picture, he/she examines the context through the camera’s viewﬁnder and focuses on the subject so that the context does not overwhelm the desired theme of the photograph. If the picture is to document and preserve the story, the focal subject must be illuminated and viewers must regard the picture as a credible representation of the central theme. Similarly the way a researcher focuses on and experiences data has a profound impact on the story the data tell and the meaning readers derive from that story. Like a photograph, documentary ﬁlm or slice-of-life painting, the interpretation presented in the write-up of a contextual inquiry represents the perspective and creativity of the researcher who follows the conventions of the research paradigm or perspective within which he/she is working. Thus the researcher’s bias limits data analysis and interpretation, as do the biases inherent in the audience to whom the story is presented (Joy, 1991; Sherry, 1991; Stern, 1998a). Speciﬁcally, a bias is a predisposition or preconceived notion about the way that research should be framed in terms of theory, paradigm, method or perspective. If a researcher’s bias is recognized by readers, it may weigh heavily on the readers’ willingness to accept research ﬁndings. If a researcher’s bias is not recognized by readers, it may...
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