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Reflexivity and the clinician-researcher: managing participant misconceptions

Amy J Hiller (Centre for Health Equity, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Danya F Vears (Centre for Health Equity, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 1 February 2016




It is increasingly common for health care clinicians to undertake qualitative research investigating an aspect of their own profession. Although the additional knowledge and perspective of a clinician might benefit the research, the professional background of the clinician-researcher can be a precipitator for confusion, similar to the therapeutic misconception occurring in quantitative clinical trials research. A significant challenge for the clinician-researcher is managing the misconceptions of participants and others about their role in the research process. The purpose of this paper is to outline these misconceptions and provide insight into how they might be avoided and managed through awareness and reflexivity.


In this paper the authors draw on their experiences as clinician-researchers and memo writing data from their respective qualitative research projects to discuss participant misconceptions. Theories of reflexivity and ethics support the discussion.


Potential misconceptions from participants include feeling obliged to participate, expecting to receive clinical care or feedback and believing they are being judged. This paper promotes reflexivity as a tool to pre-empt, prevent and manage participant misconceptions resulting from misunderstandings about the role of the clinician-researcher.


Alerting clinician-researchers to potential misconceptions and providing examples of reflexive thinking in practice can assist researchers to increase the rigor of their qualitative research.



Both authors contributed equally to this paper and share joint first authorship. The authors thank Professor Marilys Guillemin for her valuable comments and insights related to earlier versions of this paper.


Hiller, A.J. and Vears, D.F. (2016), "Reflexivity and the clinician-researcher: managing participant misconceptions", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 13-25.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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