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Strategic Exploration for Sources for Dr. Thompson's COUN 532 sections


Before scrolling down, take out a piece of paper and draw what research means to you. Don't worry about making it look perfect - no one else needs to see it. Just take a minute or two to sketch out the concept of research.


Affect and Positionality


Great! Now, take a look at your drawing. What emotions does it represent?

For many of us, we can see emotions of stress, confusion, etc. as we look at a jumble of squiggles, or perhaps at a representation of ourselves hunkered down in front of a computer.

For others, we might see excitement as we find the sources we need.

Or perhaps your drawing is more factual, without emotions.


Positionality is “...the stance or positioning of the researcher in relation to the social and political context of the study—the community, the organization or the participant group. The position adopted by a researcher affects every phase of the research process, from the way the question or problem is initially constructed, designed and conducted...” 

(Coghlan, D., & Brydon-Miller, M. (2014).The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (Vols. 1-2). London, : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781446294406)

Now, consider your own positionality. Think about your identities. How does the intersection of those identities impact what emotions you drew? 

I am white, female, and hold an MS in Information Science. The vast majority of librarians in the US are white and female, like me. I have often held power simply by my background identities. This power and my European background lead me to think linearly, hierarchically, and individualistically. Thus, my drawings tend to look quite linear, even though I know that research is iterative. 

It is critical that we understand our positionality & how that impacts our research.

  • If we picture researchers as people other than us, we create two problems for ourselves. First, we might be biased towards accepting studies by researchers who fit that description, without deeper evaluation. Second, we might be less likely to picture ourselves as researchers, which can create cognitive roadblocks to feeling confident that we can successfully learn to navigate each step, including using databases. 
  • Our positionality impacts what topics we choose to study, which influences the field
  • Who is heard and who feels silenced influences not only what is studied, but also the quality of care marginalized groups of people receive.