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Journal of Research Practice

Volume 6, Issue 1, Article M6, 2010

Main Article:
Researcher-Researched Difference: Adapting an Autoethnographic Approach for Addressing the Racial Matching Issue

Donnalyn Pompper
Department of Strategic Communication, Temple University
1701 North 13th St., 228 Weiss Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA


This introspective essay was inspired by a desire to reflect on the use of qualitative research methods--where I am a Caucasian woman examining work experiences of women of color. I launched a journey backward to discover respondents' motivation for participating in my focus groups over the years, to closely examine their comfort level with a cross-ethnic dyad. The exercise enabled me to reflect on how I had negotiated power issues inherent in the research process. It contributes to the ongoing dialogue about autoethnography--where understanding of self in socio-cultural context is both the subject and object of the research enterprise. Overall, I interrogate epistemological and methodological practicalities of researching difference.

Keywords: researcher-researched relationship; difference; race; ethnicity; autoethnography; power

Suggested Citation: Pompper, D. (2010). Researcher-researched difference: Adapting an autoethnographic approach for addressing the racial matching issue. Journal of Research Practice, 6(1), Article M6. Retrieved [date of access], from http://jrp.icaap.org/index.php/jrp/article/view/187/181

1. Introduction

Positioning the researcher as both the subject and object is highly constructive when probing issues of difference between constituents and authorities. Debates long have raged in the fields of social work, counseling and mental health, urban planning, public health, education, human resources, law, and others, at the heart of which are ethical, moral, and political concerns about power--who has it, who (mis)uses it, and how it affects the research process and public policy. Most researchers who build communication theory have been silent on methodological issues associated with researching difference in our published research, methods handbooks, and graduate courses. So, several years ago, when I began to study workplace issues experienced by women of color, there were few mile markers to guide the journey of a Caucasian academic who sought to investigate an other. Fine (1994) argued that much qualitative research has produced a colonizing discourse of the "Other," drawing upon hooks' (1990) critique that doing so may annihilate and erase.

Now, reflecting on data gathering processes as well as relationships developed with respondents over the years, I realize that I have learned just as much about myself and the qualitative research methods I use as I have about the phenomena under inquiry. I have scrutinized my published research projects to discover how the researched felt about the researcher and why they had agreed to participate in focus groups. What I discovered should be helpful to autoethnographers and other researchers who seek to design empirical research projects that rarely rest comfortably within traditional spheres where generalizability and universality are prized, and discursive writing about researching difference may not be fully embraced.

Most helpful in this autoethnographic reflection were Anderson's (2006) five key elements of analytic autoethnography: (a) complete member researcher (CMR) status, (b) analytic reflexivity, (c) narrative visibility of the researcher's self, (d) dialogue with informants beyond the self, and (e) commitment to theoretical analysis. First, recognizing that while I am a Caucasian who studies communities and voices of color, I am a "complete member in the [larger] social world under study" (Anderson, 2006, p. 379). CMR works for researchers who experience and study groups according to profession/career (Ouellet, 1994). For me it is a fine line of striving to avoid capitalizing on research participants' voices or positioning my work as "authoritative." Second, analytic reflexivity embraces "self-conscious introspection" for greater understanding of self (Anderson, 2006, p. 382). I also believe that active analytic reflexivity inspires trust and promotes relationship-building between the researcher and the researched. Third, autoethnographers provide insights by recounting experiences of others and themselves, as well as transparently revealing the very human changes experienced throughout the research processes. For the public relations and organizational communication journals in which I traditionally publish, I have injected voices and experiences of women of color who had been overlooked for far too long. For myself, I gained greater confidence as a difference researcher. Fourth, we must avoid any tendency toward self-absorption and stay focused on "the culturally different Other" (Rosaldo, 1993, p. 7). I view my research outcomes more as amplification of marginalized women's voices and testament to their courage--and myself as merely the means for increasing awareness of "the issues" in Caucasian-centric fields. Finally, Anderson's (2008) fifth key feature of analytic autoethnography suggests that we are committed to theoretical analysis and refining theoretical understandings of social processes. I encourage researchers who investigate and write about difference to consider the analytic autoethnographic impulse by addressing broader theoretical issues, maximizing opportunities to pull developing theories of difference in new directions, and to integrate them, as appropriate.

2. Adapting an Autoethnographic Approach

By privileging lived experience, autoethnographers respond to traditions of objectivist research that have avoided the subjective nature of scholarship. I argue that researching difference is highly subjective and acknowledge that postmodern skepticism toward generalization of knowledge claims fueled my initial investigations. In public relations, my particular field of inquiry, women constitute 70 per cent of practitioners (Taft, 2003). Yet it struck me that unique contributions and experiences of women of color were under-explored and subsumed in the larger category of women. The current reflexive essay may be likened to an ethnographer's work--one who locates her/himself within the study by acknowledging that the researcher and the researched are embedded within the research (Lumsden, 2009).

While teaching at a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), I became acutely aware that the public relations literature and textbooks were not doing all they could to help my classes of African-American female public relations majors to prepare for their chosen career. Moreover, why were comparatively few women of color working in public relations management and why was no one researching this? So, I resolved to closely link my teaching and research by increasing awareness of and building theory about issues of ethnicity in the public relations workplace. Only one obvious given gave me pause: I am Caucasian. Embarking on this work could be risky. I thought hard about power differentials, research methods, and validity issues. Sensitivity and respect would be key ingredients, for representing experiences of others always carries great responsibility.

Clearly, qualitative research methods of focus groups and in-depth interviews would promote collection of various perceptions among women of color. Although I am neither trained as a sociologist nor as an ethnographer, I resolved that like Chicago School researchers (Davis, 1959; Roth, 1963; Roy, 1959/1960), I must concentrate on listening, observing, and analyzing subjects' words and settings--and on representing them well. Qualitative methods bring texture and depth to findings. In particular, the focus group method helps researchers to probe respondents' comments, enables participants to match problems with possible solutions, and empowers women of color to relate to one another in a context of collective testimonies and group resistance narratives (Madriz, 2000).

But until now, I had not known what to do with the "confessional tales" of my work (Van Maanen, 1988), the self-narrative of my experiences, or self-reflexive writing that could be characterized as an autoethnographic impulse. How might the sensitivities I had developed be autobiographically connected to qualitative research processes? Moreover, beyond publications and successes in recruiting respondents, I knew nothing about why women of color had agreed to participate in my research projects in the first place, or any reservations they had had.

2.1. Researcher-Participants Interaction in Qualitative Research

Autobiographically connecting to one's research generally has received little attention in the communication discipline, though systematic self-observation has garnered some support among researchers using ethnographic methods (Hayano, 1979; Zurcher, 1983). In using focus group and in-depth interview methods, the ethical and methodological dilemmas encountered as part of the inquiry and analysis process did not rest easily alongside the data used in papers I was writing for journals in my field; so I ignored them. I now posit that the autoethnographic impulse is just as relevant to non-ethnographer qualitative researchers. It is paramount to theory-building activities conducted by those who research across difference.

Ellis (2004) defined autoethnography as "research, writing, and method that connects the autobiographical and personal to the cultural and social . . . featur[ing] concrete action, emotion, embodiment, self-consciousness, and introspection" (p. xix). The context where I, the researcher, am considered privileged in terms of ethnicity, education, and socio-economic status (SES) must be taken into account as part of the process involved in explicating workplace experiences of women of color. While various conceptualizations of the autoethnographic research approach exist, perhaps the most useful to researchers like me, who use focus groups and in-depth interviews, are ways that autoethnography opens a window on the sense-making process in diverse cultural settings shaped by context (Berry & Warren, 2009; Ellis & Bochner, 2000) and the "particular knowledge-producer" (Stanley, 1993, p. 49). Such an autoethnographic approach is especially relevant to those who study difference. In drawing attention to myself and to the ways in which the research process constitutes what it investigates (Taylor, 2001), I account for the role of interpretation and interaction between researcher and researched, and acknowledge that which is produced from one's interactions with research participants.

2.2. Getting Started

I began by accepting a challenge; acknowledging that a study of workplace experiences among women of color might be tricky for a Caucasian researcher. I realized in the back of my mind that as a Caucasian woman, I would be working with a handicap; that a woman of the same ethnicity as the researched would be much better equipped. I wondered if women of color would trust me enough to want to talk about their personal workplace experiences. Could I adequately interpret their experiences? Would they find my questions naïve, uninformed, or offensive? How could I do this without in some sense "othering" and re-invoking a fixed hierarchical relationship between respondents and myself?

Next, I immersed myself in the methods literature and quickly discovered that there was not much in the early 2000s to guide me. Lumsden (2009) opined that methods texts still remain relatively silent on how fieldwork affects the ethnographer and ways in which the ethnographer affects the field. Moreover, multidisciplinary feminist theorizing has critiqued mainstream, positivistic research for its assumptions that the researcher is objective and value free in relation to the study of the researched (Archer, 2002). Not to be deterred, I turned to self-reflexive ethnographers who have dealt with how ideologies and positions affect research methods (Twine, 2000). I also read writings of British researchers who, since the 1980s, have debated issues of "racial matching" (Bhavnani, 1988; Mirza, 1998), "race-of-interviewer effects," (Gunaratnam, 2003), and "experimenter effects" (Morawski, 1997). To some degree, these works put my mind at ease and freed me from doubt so that I could begin researching across difference.

3. Background on Power and Racial Matching Issues

Unmistakably, there is an asymmetrical power relation between the researcher and the researched. The researcher is named in publications while those researched are most of the time anonymous, conflated in categories and themes. The researcher has control and authority over academic discourse (Moebius, 1995), for s/he sets the agenda, defines the research problem, identifies the questions to be answered, and decides whose voice can be heard.

Racial matching is rooted in a realist epistemology, an assumption that there is a unitary truth about respondents and their lives which interviewers need to obtain--and who better to gather those data than a researcher who looks like the researched? A guiding assumption of survey methodology is that similarity between researchers and respondents on important social characteristics enhances validity of information obtained (Hurtado, 1994). During the 1940s and 1950s, US based sociologists using the survey method posited that the race of the interviewer had dramatic affects on interviewees' responses (Hyman, Cobb, Feldman, Hart, & Stember, 1954). It was accepted that "shared racial identity" promotes communication between researcher and subject (Rhodes, 1994, p. 550). Hence, a "methodological rule of thumb" (Twine, 2000, p. 6) evolved during post-World War II decolonization and the antiracist movements of the 1960s when it was presumed that minorities were distrusting of Caucasian "authorities," and many raised the issue of Caucasian researchers' ability to study people of color (e.g., Zinn, 1979). Importantly, "racial matching" also was invoked as part of a movement to racially diversify the academy by opening it up to scholars of color (Twine, 2000).

More recently, the question of symmetrically matching researcher and researched has been critiqued as overly simplistic. In his study of insider research, Aguilar (1981) argued that all socio-cultural systems are complex and that a "racial matching" model implicitly suggests that researchers are absolutely inside or outside homogeneous socio-cultural style. Moreover, race is not the only relevant social signifier that may facilitate "insiderness" (e.g., Rhodes, 1994). People have multiple identifications (Essed, 1994), so that meanings and difference outcomes are complicated by age, class, accent, education, national origins, skin tone, region, sexuality, and other dimensions. Ironically, standpoint analysis has been considered essentialist (Connolly, 1996; Fine, 1994), a stance which some feminist theorists object to for its obfuscation of multidimensionality and multiple identities (Crozier, 2003, p. 83).

On the other hand, Essed (1990) suggests that doing research among one's own group has the advantage of making it easier to discuss negative views about an "outgroup." hooks (2000) emphatically states that problems arise "not when White women choose to write about the experiences of non-White people, but when such material is presented as 'authoritative'" (p. 48).
Ironically, little has been written about how the researched feel about being involved in research projects, with some exceptions (Brannen, 1993; Phoenix, 1990). The current essay takes an autoethnographic approach to shed light on this issue.

3.1. The Journey's Next Steps

Bolstered by what I had mined from the literature, I invited six African-American women to attend a pilot focus group session on an autumn afternoon in 2000 so that I could test my topic guide and myself, as discussion leader. I met incredible, intelligent, and talented women who were as committed as I was to discussing "the issues." Obviously, they were glad to express themselves with others who could relate and so far as I could tell, they did not seem to mind that I was Caucasian. On the contrary, they seemed grateful that someone was taking the time to listen.

Since that first session nearly a decade ago, I have gathered the stories of about 100 African-American and Asian-American women and Latinas working in applied communication fields, using both focus group and in-depth interview methods. Without fail, the respondents ended up thanking me, when it is I who was grateful that they were so giving of their time and emotional energy in sharing their stories. It is as if women of color working in management careers have a contained need to vent, for often they tell me at the end of sessions or in e-mail messages or phone calls afterward, that they found the experience cathartic and therapeutic.

3.2. Journeying Backward

It is my hope that all social science researchers pursue a path of continual learning--especially those among us who are committed to social justice. For me, it is important to be responsible and proactive. So, I eventually responded to a nagging question: What do the researched think of the researcher? Recently, I re-contacted several African-American and Latina respondents I had met early on, asking them to reflect on their focus group experience via a questionnaire for some anonymous, unobtrusive feedback.

4. Method

By e-mail I contacted respondents who had participated in two earlier studies about experiences of African-American women (13) and Latinas (12) working in public relations in major US cities. A doctoral student working with me as a research assistant (RA) mailed the questionnaires and stamped return-envelopes. To maintain anonymity, I asked respondents to refrain from writing their name on the questionnaire and my RA opened and discarded the envelopes (so I would not know the city of origin) and placed the instruments in folders. The questionnaire featured 34 closed-ended questions using a 5-point Likert-like scale and 4 open-ended questions. These research questions guided my inquiry:

RQ1: How comfortable were respondents in discussing their personal views in the focus group setting?

RQ2: Why did respondents participate in focus group sessions?

RQ3: How relevant was the researcher's identity?

4.1. Data Sources

Nineteen women of color, ages 35-59, returned questionnaires (10 African-Americans, 9 Latinas). Twenty-five questionnaires were mailed, so this was a 76 per cent return rate. Of course, the results are non-generalizeable. I also returned to the original transcripts of focus group discussions and field notes that recorded my descriptions, to recall how the discussions flowed and my role as discussion leader played out.

4.2. Reflecting on Cultural Experiences

Recalled were procedures used to initially recruit respondents for focus group meetings in cities where large populations of African-American women and Latinas work in public relations (Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Philadelphia). Interestingly, once I had identified at least one woman who embraced the project's goals, she would recommend several other names and provide contact information for potential respondents. Her implied endorsement went a long way in deriving snowball samples. In some cases, confirmed respondents would contact others and put them in touch with me.

To respect respondents' time constraints, I had tried to host meetings just before or after work hours, or during lunch. That so many women of color participated without receiving any financial incentives (except for parking or public transportation fees, which I reimbursed) still astonishes me.

It is important to also note steps taken to host focus group meetings in spaces where I thought respondents would be most comfortable--neutral, centrally located, easily accessible, private with ample parking or on public transportation routes. For example, rather than using an office building where a respondent worked, I selected a public library, church, or community center meeting room. (The only exception was the use of a conference room at a New York public relations agency where one of my former colleagues worked.) I anticipated that such surroundings, or distinctive socio-cultural contexts, would facilitate a mood of full disclosure on sensitive topics. This would promote the sharing of stories where I could be the beneficiary of communicative practices comprising cultural scenes (Carbaugh, 1996). That a researcher demonstrated a willingness to, at least temporarily, occupy community spaces where the researched felt at home benefited the research projects, I think.

Yet, beyond what I could intuit, I had been unable to draw firm conclusions about how the researched felt about the researcher or the focus group experience. My unanswered questions inspired a re-connection with respondents, inviting them to complete a short questionnaire.

5. Survey Findings

The questionnaire was designed to probe respondents' comfort level in discussing their personal views in a focus group setting, motivation for why they had agreed to participate in research projects in the first place, and their perceptions of the researcher's identity. According to the Likert scale, 1 represented "disagree" and 5 represented "agree."

5.1. Comfort Levels

RQ1: How comfortable were respondents in discussing their personal views in the focus group setting?

Respondents reported feeling very comfortable sharing their stories and feelings about sensitive issues (mean = 4.84, SD = 0.36)--and perceived that other respondents were, too (mean = 4.63, SD = 0.581). The researcher's "willingness to take issues being discussed seriously" mattered greatly to the researched (mean = 4.52, SD = 0.499).

5.2. Motivation

RQ2: Why did respondents participate in focus group sessions?

Respondents said they were motivated most to participate in the focus groups because they considered the subject matter to be important to themselves personally (mean = 4.68, SD = 0.464), important to all African-Americans and Latinos/Latinas in public relations (mean = 4.63, SD = 0.581), important to all African-American women/Latinas in public relations (mean = 4.52, SD = 0.499), because the researcher seemed enthusiastic about the project (mean = 4.52, SD = 4.99), and because the subject was important to all women in public relations (mean = 4.05, SD = 0.759).

Respondents gave neutral scores to being motivated to participate in focus group projects based on the researcher's role as a public relations instructor (mean = 2.94, SD = 1.31) or because the researcher taught at an HBCU or ethnically-diverse institution (mean = 2.84, SD = 1.08). These scores, examined in concert with perceptions of the researcher's "willingness to take issues being discussed seriously" (mean = 4.52, SD = 4.99) suggest that the researched valued this quality more than what or where the researcher teaches.

5.3 Perceptions of Researcher Identity

RQ3: How relevant was the researcher's identity?

Respondents were slightly more than neutral on relevance of the researcher's gender (mean = 3.47, SD = 0.67), but agreed that they considered the researcher's ethnicity as unimportant (mean = 4.0, SD = 0.79), and disagreed that they felt uncomfortable with the researcher's ethnicity during the focus group session (mean = 1.52, SD = 0.67).

More specifically, they agreed that researcher-researched difference can reveal useful (mean = 4.05, SD = 0.75) results. With regard to the researcher's ethnicity, the researched disagreed that they assumed the researcher was ethnically-similar to them (mean = 1.84, SD = 0.58) prior to meeting in person, disagreed that they sought to discover more information about the researcher's background prior to the focus group session (mean = 1.52, SD = 0.67), and disagreed that they were surprised to learn that the researcher was not an African-American woman/Latina (mean = 1.94, SD = 0.64) like them. The researched disagreed that they (mean = 1.31, SD = 0.65) or other respondents (mean = 1.63, SD = 0.66) would have been more open in a "racially-matched" dyad during focus group sessions. I may conclude that respondents either could tell by our first phone contact that I was Caucasian, and/or they did not care enough to ask or to investigate on their own.

5.4 Degree of Satisfaction

Most respondents took advantage of open-ended probes to share their thoughts about the degree to which they found the focus group experience satisfying. Clearly, respondents appreciated the cathartic and therapeutic qualities of an unthreatening forum where they could air concerns with others like themselves who worked in public relations, as expressed in comments like:

I found the discussion fulfilling for myself. To discuss things that needed to be voiced a long time ago.

We were allowed to vent about our experiences.

We could share ideas, make new contacts, discuss common concerns.

I appreciated an opportunity to leave the plantation and talk honestly with other Black professionals about race and racial issues in the workplace.

I liked seeing different generations of Latinas discussing how they have succeeded within the "system."

Good to see I'm not the only one experiencing certain aspects in this industry.

I have great interest in hearing and learning about Latinas in our industry. This research is much needed and it's not being done locally. (Responses to an open-ended question in the questionnaire, November 2007)

Some among the researched used the open-ended space to comment on their perceptions of the researcher. Such comments included:

Despite the researcher's ethnicity, I believe everyone was extremely honest in their feedback.

The researcher was honest (seemed that way) and passionate about topic.

I liked the researcher's openness with the group, small group. We had something in common.

It was a fabulous experience and I was happy to communicate my industry experience for this researcher.

The researcher was excellent. She was very open-minded and willing to learn new things. I would gladly participate again.

While I do not believe there is any solution to racism, I think we (blacks, whites, and others) can develop a healthy respect for our differences through open and honest communication. Racism will only end as it began--with white people. (Responses to an open-ended question in the questionnaire, November 2007)

5.5 Ongoing Participation

I wondered if the willingness of the researched to participate in some future research project might signal a highest degree of acceptance--of me and my research projects--so I included an open-ended probe on the mailed questionnaire and asked if they would ever participate in one of my research projects again.

Overall, respondents expressed enthusiasm about sharing their views again because they perceived a lack in awareness of their unique voices, as expressed in comments such as these:

I think it's useful to document accurately the African-American experience in America.

I would like my opinion to count and my Hispanic reality to be included in the mix.

I credit my bi-cultural ease as part of my success. I feel women like me should be represented.

I rarely, if ever, get to see these women and to hear their stories. It was powerful and enlightening.

I encourage Donnalyn to keep up this research and to share the results proactively with all of us involved in the study.

The experience of participating in the group was a good one. I think it's important that professionals work together for the good of the PR profession. (Responses to an open-ended question in the questionnaire, November 2007)

6. Looking Beyond Racial Matching

Prior to writing this essay, I had failed to fully embed myself in research outcomes. Over the years, I never talked about myself when writing up studies--beyond noting that I had selected topics, framed research questions, and interpreted data. For one thing, I considered research participants' voices far more relevant than my own. Even though I had sometimes included respondents in data analysis steps, I would have been uneasy (and possibly unwilling due to the nature of journals I sought to publish in) about discussing my power position in the process or how I felt about the findings. Rather, I adhered to objectivist research traditions and avoided the subjective nature of my work.

Holding an autoethnographic lens over earlier research projects in order to scrutinize respondents' perceptions of my ethnic identity has affirmed that at least one dimension of difference in the power relationship between researcher and researched has not been the overwhelming barrier I had feared early on. I was concerned that being in an asymmetrical power relation where I am dominant, active, and an insider gave me control and authority over representation of the researched. This given inspired my journey backward to find out how the researched perceived at least one aspect of the power relation: my ethnicity as a Caucasian. Anderson's (2006) key elements of analytic autoethnography were especially useful in this autoethnographic reflection. My voyage of discovery should prove helpful to autoethnographers and those who research difference. Indeed, a reflexive turn draws attention to the researcher as part of the world being studied and to the ways in which the research process constitutes what it investigates (Taylor, 2001). Like Warren (2001) and others who have examined autoethnography of White subjectivity, I have sought to expose the reproduction of power, or ways that practices reinforce barriers.

A researcher's identity is relevant for it affects how the researched respond to the researcher in terms of what they believe the researcher will understand. Findings of the small follow-up survey I conducted suggest that respondents believed I was "willing to take issues being discussed seriously" and I think this may have trumped any misgivings about my ethnicity as a Caucasian. The purpose of my studies, expressed concern for ensuring voices of women of color were heard, as well as respect and delicacy in handling issues discussed in focus groups, went a long way in earning trust. As autoethnographers who examine cultural experiences, we are ourselves "cultural agents" (Berry & Warren, 2009, p. 603) capable of self-doubt (e.g., Ellis, 2004), reproduction of power (Warren, 2001), and healing possibilities (DeSalvo, 2002).

Golde (1970) characterized the ethnographer as a "chief instrument of research" who may alter that which is being studied and may be changed in turn. I posit that the focus group and in-depth interview researcher also acts as such an instrument and I encourage other difference researchers to also consider Anderson's (2006) analytic autoethnographic proposition. Indeed, a self-reflexive turn has enriched the work of feminist and masculinity studies scholars who study gender, and studies of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered (GLBT) researchers who examine sexuality. In addition, I encourage Critical Race Theory (CRT) scholars committed to revealing racially discriminatory infrastructures in our society to transport this important legal studies work to other theory-building arenas.

Conceptualizations of identities as shifting, multiple, and crosscutting boundaries and interests mean that it is impossible to match researchers/participants exactly for same-dyads in all criteria (even if one wanted to). Also, when a researcher collects data from women "like herself" from a similar background, she must resist conflating her own experience with that of her participants (Reay, 1996) for it is imprudent to claim a monopoly of insight, perception, or awareness (Brah, 1992). Importantly, language or skin color alone do not distinguish demographic groups (Hurtado, 1994), and to conflate ethnic groups or ignore intra-group diversity also does disservice to difference work. Finally, a "racial matching" logic may contribute to marginalization of scholars of color relegated to studying only those of the same "racial group" (Phoenix, 1994).

Overall, it is my hope that even those whose research is not specifically concerned with ethnic disparities, will consider the significance of ethnicity, or race, as a methodological issue. Like Twine (2000), I support an ongoing, "serious discussion of the potential ethical, emotional, analytical, and methodological dilemmas generated by racial subjectivities, racial ideologies, and racial disparities" (p. 5).


I extend heartfelt thanks to all the women of color who have participated in my research projects over the years. I am especially grateful for the friendship of four women of color, in particular, who have wholeheartedly endorsed and supported my research projects by enthusiastically offering encouragement and contact names, as well as support in recruiting respondents. Without the help of Gina Kinchlow, Sharon Woodson-Bryant, Dora Tovar, and Susan Jin Davis, my research agenda may have taken a very different turn. Parts of this essay were shared in a 2009 talk titled, "Methodological Issues Associated with Researching Difference," co-sponsored by the Minorities and Communication and Mass Communication & Society divisions of the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication, Boston, MA.


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Received 19 January 2010 | Accepted 25 June 2010 | Published 2 August 2010