Autoethnography in Information Science Research: A Transformative Generation and Sharing of Knowledge or a Fallacy?

Autoethnography in Information Science Research: A Transformative Generation and Sharing of Knowledge or a Fallacy?

Vicki Lawal (University of Fort Hare, South Africa) and Connie Bitso (University of Fort Hare, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1471-9.ch007
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This chapter examines the concept of autoethnography as a qualitative research method. It aims to investigate the critical question of the importance of autoethnography as a transformative scientific research method for the purpose of generating and sharing knowledge to advance research in information science. The chapter is an exploratory study investigating the current context of autoethnography in information science, its applicability to the field for transformative learning and knowledge sharing, and possible challenges to be experienced. Findings indicate the potential of the autoethnographic method to provide the opportunity for information professionals to study experiences of information use in diverse contexts of information science. Recommendations highlight the viability of the application of Sense Making theory and the Information Search Process (ISP) model to research practices in autoethnography by information scientists.
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Purpose Of The Study

Autoethnography is a relatively new research approach within qualitative research methods; it is a method that seeks to describe and systematically analyze the personal experience of a researcher in order to understand a particular context, cultural belief, or practice (Ellis, Adams, & Bochner, 2011). It entails the researcher writing about themselves as a form of critical self-inquiry in which he/she is at the center of investigation as the “subject” as well as the “object” or participant being investigated (Denshire, 2013; McIlveen, 2008; Ngunjiri, Hernandez, & Chang, 2010). However, this particular feature of the research method has been a subject of much scrutiny, as it involves highly personalized accounts where the opinion of the researcher is written in the first person, which opposes the widely accepted view that maintains that any rigorous and valuable research should be undertaken from a neutral, impersonal, and objective stance (Holt, 2003; Méndez, 2013; Ngunjiri et al., 2010). Similarly, even though autoethnography as a qualitative research method utilizes data about self and context in order to gain an understanding of the connectivity with other social phenomena, issues of ethics, the absence of a strong analytical approach, and the inability to generalize research outcomes have constituted some of its major limitations as a research method (Anderson, 2006; Ellis, 2007; Méndez, 2013). Despite these challenges, the applicability of autoethnography to various disciplines, professional practice, and organizations is growing, thereby providing an opportunity to further interrogate the assumptions and processes that define this research method (Doloriert & Sambrook, 2012; Mcllveen, 2008; Parry & Boyle, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Evaluative: A process of assessing or appraising the value of something in order to determine its worth or significance.

Transformative: An action that is capable of capable of bringing about definite change.

Ethics: The principles of right and wrong that accepted by an individual or social group based on established standards.

Analytic: A logical, systematic way of reasoning in understanding or examining an issue.

Postmodernism: A theory or movement that that challenges a reconsideration of modern assumptions of culture, identity, history, and research.

Reflexivity: A spontaneous action that is characterized by or done in relation to one’s self.

Evocative: A statement or action that is made to induce an emotional response.

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