Bracketing in Qualitative Research – A Detailed Guide

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Bracketing in Qualitative Research

Have you ever felt that your emotions, experiences, and personal perceptions about a phenomenon create problems in the research process? If yes, then you know that you are bracketing in qualitative research. Qualitative research is about analysing a phenomenon, and the variables in this study are your control. If you introduce a change in the variables other than the natural one, you have bracketed your research. Initially, the term bracketing was solely related to phenomenological things, but now this has expanded to other qualitative research types. It is most common in observation and interview methods of qualitative research.

Bracketing in qualitative research has not been so common. Due to this, the literature about this issue is quiet. There is not much information available on this topic. So, exploring this topic in more detail and unearthing its hidden meanings is necessary. It is why today’s article is all about bracketing. In this article, I will discuss the definitions of it given by various researchers, its elements, and methods of bracketing. There will also be a detailed explanation of the question, “Who does the bracketing in qualitative research?” So let’s start today’s discussion with the definitions.

Definitions of bracketing given by different researchers

There is a lack of definitions or a standard definition of bracketing. This lack has led many authors and researchers to make their definitions. While writing this article, I am unsure why you are reading about bracketing. So, definitions given by different researchers of a masters dissertation help service are all mentioned below. Study them and pick the definition that suits you.

Drew (2004). “The task of sorting out the qualities that belong to the researcher’s experience of the phenomenon is bracketing.”

Gearing (2004). “A scientific process in which the researcher holds his biases, perceptions, assumptions, theories, or previous experiences to describe the phenomenon.”

Starks and Trinidad (2007). “Being vigilant and aware of your own perceptions, beliefs, and pre-existing thoughts about a research issue is bracketing.”

Hence, these are some of the definitions of bracketing in qualitative research given by different researchers. In all these definitions, one thing is common. The researcher’s beliefs, thoughts, and experiences should not come in the way of research. So, in actual terms, this is the real definition of bracketing.

Who brackets in the research?

From the discussion above, you know about the definition of bracketing. Now, let’s talk about who brackets in qualitative research. Is the researcher brackets, or do the research participants do so? The literature on bracketing suggests that it is the researcher who mainly brackets. The reason is that he is the principal controller of all the research variables. So, his personal beliefs and personal thoughts can affect the research outcomes a lot.

On the other hand, there is another question. Do the participants also do bracketing in qualitative research? The answer to this question is yes. In the interview mode of research, the participants may bracket the answers to the questions. His personal beliefs and pre-existing thoughts can come in the way of giving a rational answer. Hence, it is clear that both researcher and participant can bracket. However, it is important to note that the major role in bracketing is always the researcher.

Methods of bracketing in qualitative research

Bracketing is common in qualitative research. The reason is that the researcher controls most of the variables, and he can bracket them easily. However, there are some methods using which the researcher may commit bracketing. A brief description of those is as follows:

Writing a memo

The first bracketing method is writing a memo while collecting and analysing the research data. Many researchers write a memo to reflect on the data after completing its collection. A memo is a written document which contains brief messages or notes about something. Upon collecting certain data, the researcher writes a short note on that observation and data value.

The process of memoing is a free writing process. The researcher writes about the data collected based on his understanding and does not consider objectivity. It lets the researcher engage with the data more freely, reflecting as reflected in the research. Hence, the first bracketing method is taking brief theoretical notes while collecting data.

Engaging in interviews with an outside source

The second bracketing method in qualitative research involves interviews with an outside source. The researcher engages in such a conversation to uncover the biases. This practice does not allow the researcher to explore the topic further. It is because he only sticks to the opinions or answers of that interviewer. This type of interview happens after payment of a little free and scheduling the interview. The confidentiality of the participant is also the core element of such an interview.

A journal begun without research questions

It is the 3rd method of bracketing in qualitative research. A reflexive journal begun before defining the research questions is a classic example of bracketing. The reason is that no research is complete unless you define the research questions. So, how come a journal be begun without research questions? It simply means that the researcher employed his preconceptions about the research top and began the journal. Hence, the researchers must start a reflective journal by giving the research questions first.

Three phases of bracketing

Bracketing consists of three general but unique phases. Within each phase, there are core elements made up of different components. The time and length constraints are not allowing me to explore those phases and elements in detail. However, the list of those three phases is as follows:

  • Abstract formulation
  • Research praxis
  • Reintegration

Conclusion

Conclusively, the bracketing in qualitative research comes from the researcher’s beliefs, biases, and thoughts. Several researchers have given various definitions of bracketing. However, the basic methods and the elements mentioned above are the same. Therefore, pay attention to those and keep a distance from doing this.

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