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Reflexivity in the field encounter in qualitative research: learning from Gadamer

Neil Kenneth McBride (Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 8 September 2022

Issue publication date: 4 January 2023




Reflexivity involves critical reflection by the qualitative researcher as to the influence of the researcher's culture, history and belief on the conduct and outcome of the research. It is often seen as a practice exercised in the analysis of results in order to attempt to objectify the research. The purpose of this paper is to argue that the value of reflexivity is located in its practice in the field encounter as a means of recognising and embracing subjectivity. In order to widen reflexivity as hermeneutics, the paper draws on Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics as developed in “Truth and Method”.


This is a conceptual paper which distils critical themes from Gadamer's truth and method and applies them to the concept of reflexivity as applied in the field.


The paper suggests that reflexivity is an important component in the field encounter. Immersion in the language and terms of the field is critical to understanding meaning; who I am, my past, my lived experience are essential inputs to my research; the researcher's opinions, ideas and outspoken statements are part of the fabric of qualitative research; qualitative interpretation as a creative exercise; qualitative research should bring insight and understanding that can be applied to catalyse change.

Practical implications

Understanding and applying reflexivity in the field will provide innovative insights which can be carried through to the data analysis.


This study uniquely applies Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics to reflexivity and the field encounter.



McBride, N.K. (2023), "Reflexivity in the field encounter in qualitative research: learning from Gadamer", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 27-40.



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