As qualitative research undertakings are not independent of the researcher, the indissoluble interrelationship between interpreter and interpretation renders it necessary for researchers to understand that their text is a representation, a version of the truth that is the product of writerly choices, and that it is discursive. Endlessly creative, artistic and political, as there is no single interpretative truth, the interpretative process facilitates the refashioning of representations, the remaking of choices and the probing of discourses. In this respect, it is principally important that the researcher understands that interpretation flows from personal, cultural, and historical experiences and cannot be separated from researcher background, context, prior understandings, assumptions, beliefs, biases and closeness to the research topic. As a consequence of the resultant particularity of any researcher’s account, issues pertaining to researcher identity and authorial stance always remain central to research endeavours. Thus, spotlighting the researcher as narrator foregrounds a range of complex issues pertaining to voice, representation and interpretive authority.
In my presentation, elements derived from my doctoral study of the shaping of newly-qualified primary teachers’ identities, in Ireland, throughout the course of their initial year of occupational experience, post-graduation, help spotlight issues pertaining to the researcher as narrator. To chart the process of beginning teacher identity shaping over one school-year, a multiple-case study research design was employed. Individual, semi-structured interview was the principal method of data collection employed. Adhering to the epistemological assumptions of the constructivist paradigm, my goal, as researcher, was to understand the complexities of lived experience from the viewpoints of the nine participating beginning teacher informants. However, implicit in discussions of how a researcher listens to an interviewee’s voice - both during the actual interview and at the interpretive stage - is the issue of the researcher’s voice. In constructing, interpreting and representing others’ voices and realities, researchers develop their own voices. A typology of three voices or narrative strategies, typically deployed by researchers as they attempt to interpret and represent the voices of research participants, is advanced by Chase (2005). These three voices refer, respectively, to a researcher’s authoritative, supportive, and interactive voices.
The manner, in which the three researcher voices of Chase’s (2005) typology manifest in my study of newly-qualified, beginning teachers, is outlined in my presentation.