Exploring and developing reciprocity in research design

Audrey Trainor, Kate Ahlgren Bouchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The researcher-participant relationship has the potential to be reciprocal, a relationship in which each contributes something the other needs or desires. Participants devote their time, effort, experiences, and wisdom to inform and shape the researcher's study. The researcher's scope, depth, and nature of inquiry introduce vulnerability to participants' lives. In turn, researchers are susceptible to variable involvement and apathy from participants. While neither the relational aspect of research nor its potential for reciprocity is new, we are concerned that the concept is overshadowed in the current, positivistic culture of evidence in education research. Using vignettes from our special education research, we describe the affordances of a stance of reciprocity, illustrating the contours of the component in recruitment, participation, analysis, and presentation. We ask: How do truth traditions support reciprocity? How do we authentically reciprocate participants' efforts throughout the research process? And finally, how might qualitative work embrace reciprocity and lead education research to a broader conceptualization of evidence, one that expands the transformative potential of our collective work?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)986-1003
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • ethics
  • participant involvement
  • reciprocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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