Positionality And Perspective In Qualitative Research

Introduction and Definition

Research processes require sharing of spaces between the researcher and participants. A researcher may take a stance on a particular subject by forming biases and perceptions of others and how outsiders perceive them. Participants may have a specific belief that contradicts the ontology and epistemology of the subject under investigation. Individuals’ stances that influence the issue under study are referred to as positionality. This paper explores the impact of positionality and perspectives in qualitative research to give novice researchers a better understanding and how to apply the concept during an investigation.

Definition of Terms

Positionality, in this case, refers to researchers’, or participants’ stance on a particular subject, which influences their decisions on a research project. Individuals form attitudes due to personal beliefs regarding the study topic or population. Perspective is an individual attitude or assumption towards a particular subject under investigation. As a result, positionality, as well as perspectives, influence the process, development, and outcomes of a research project.

Impacts of Positionality and Perspectives

Positionality and perspective impact researchers’ topic of interest, study approaches, interaction with participants, data interpretation, and knowledge dissemination. Investigators take stances from philosophical and social perspectives, such as race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, politics, or ethnicity. Acknowledging and presenting personal views is essential in research requiring critical analysis, such as narrative research methods. For instance, addressing issues about race is susceptible and needs a critical approach when a researcher belongs to a different race (Frey, 2019, p. 124). Therefore, an examiner needs to take a stance in narrative inquiry when investigating populations that are different from the individual’s background.

Narrative inquiry research needs positionality when the researcher and participants are intertwined in the same story. In cases where the investigator and participants share a common characteristic, they need to put themselves in the same position and time frame to understand the study’s epistemological aspects Chatterjee, (2006, p. 566). Chatterjee (2006, p. 567) also states that creating perceptions of historical events based on public anthropological facts may lead to incorrect information about a community’s history. Therefore, the researcher needs cultural or racial positionality to explore the personal beliefs regarding the population regardless of cultural differences.

Taking a position gives a researcher clear direction on the particular investigation, methodology, questioning participants, and feedback expectations. Study populations that demonstrate positionality on a specific subject require careful approaches to address the study topic. For example, Borell et al.’s (2009, p. 30) research project investigates contradictory assumptions among two ethnic groups in New Zealand. Participants of the minority ethnic group believe that they have more privileges than the dominant one, despite epistemological data indicating otherwise. Such examination projects require an investigator to make a subjective stand to achieve the general objective of finding out more about the advantages of having invincible privileges.

Positionality helps scientists test their beliefs with the study population and reflect on the results. Most researchers pick the dominant aspect of their beliefs, which helps in building trust with participants. Watts (2013, p. 20) confirms this theory by basing her study on the assumption that indigenous stories interlinking the planet and human existence are not myths but actual events because of the place-thought factor. According to Watts, the Western-European culture that separates human beings from the physical earth misleads indigenous people in a relationship between human beings and non-human aspects. Watts (2013, p. 20) also states that her perspective on indigenous belief guided her interaction and behavior around the indigenous community due to shared beliefs. Acknowledging individual and social identity helps in interactions with participants.


Positionality is critical in qualitative research as it influences many aspects of successful exploration, such as formulating topics, methodology, and interacting with participants. Novice researchers need to understand the importance of positionality and perspective in conducting a study. Study experts should offer proper training on personal attitudes and stand on a subject rather than focus on an investigation’s epistemology and socio-cultural backgrounds. Analyzing the importance of positionality gives insight into the need to involve participants and their beliefs to obtain quality data.


Borell, B., Gregory, A., McCreanor, T., Jensen, V., & Moewaka-Barnes, H. (2009). “It’s hard at the top but it’s a whole lot easier than being at the bottom”: The role of privilege in understanding disparities in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts (pp. 29-50). Indiana University Press.

Chatterjee, P. (2006). Taking blood: Gender, race, and imagining public anthropology in India. India Review, 5(3-4), 551-571.

Frey, W. (2019). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism Robin DiAngelo. Journal of Social Work, 20(1), 123-125.

Watts, V. (2013). Indigenous place-thought & agency amongst humans and non-humans (First Woman and Sky Woman go on a European world tour!). Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 2(1), 20-34.