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Toward multi-dimensional and developmental notion of researcher positionality

Hangyan Lu (Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China)
Warren A. Hodge (Department of Leadership, School Counseling and Sports Management, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, USA)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 4 June 2019

Issue publication date: 4 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to argue for a multi-dimensional and developmental notion of researcher positionality in conducting qualitative research, in lieu of the dichotomous notion of outsider and insider. The former emphasizes the agentive role researchers play in knowledge production, whereas the latter has been much challenged as oversimplified and insufficient in understanding the dynamic interactions in which field researchers engage.


The paper borrows Milner’s (2007) four-level framework of research personality to reflect on one cross-cultural narrative inquiry study.


Reflective stories revealed that researcher positionality captures threads of intersectionality as well as inter- and intra-personal dynamics, and thus better informs the research process than what concept of insider/outsider dichotomy can do.

Research limitations/implications

The paper enriches the discussion of research positionality in qualitative research by involving a cross-cultural study where the researcher moved to-and-fro two sites.

Practical implications

The paper suggests a methodological and practical way of raising researcher’s awareness and agency relative to positionality by exposing the researcher to cross-cultural settings.


While the multi-dimensional aspect of researcher positionality and its relatedness to research findings has been much discussed, not much acknowledgment has been given to the developmental aspect of research positionality.



This work was supported by the University of Hong Kong under the University Postgraduate Fellowship and by Swedish Institute under Guest Scholarship (No. 00441/2009).


Lu, H. and Hodge, W.A. (2019), "Toward multi-dimensional and developmental notion of researcher positionality", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 225-235.



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