Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Empowerment: Diagnosis – Reflection – Activity Orientations in Social Work

Publisher Name

WYG International Publications

Publisher Location

Lodz, Poland


Identity, understood from many vantage points, is continually evolving based on relationship experiences, including those relationships established in social and behavioral research. Whether rendered anonymous in large quantitatively-studied samples, or intimately known in qualitative studies, those contributing to science in a role termed “subject” receive, through the research, definitions of their identities. Because those identities are part of published social research, identities created in the research process become part of the public discourse about persons in the “subjects’” situations, and also influence policies that in turn influence persons’ lives. For their part, the identities of social and behavioral researchers also are influenced by research roles. Social work researchers may struggle with being elites as their research process unveils great suffering, which they may be unable to remedy. Data about the discomfort of those participating in research indicate that that the search for alternative ways of structuring research relationships is important. The participatory action tradition, grounded in Freire’s formulation that social transformation occurs as all people recognize their value and power and claim their full freedom, offers alternative ways of structuring relationships between those who participate in research. Data from participatory action research projects demonstrate those who participate in research can discover strengths and realize capabilities for constructively responding to serious social problems. Partners formerly regarded as “subjects” describe empowerment, acquiring education, reflectiveness about their strengths, and the conviction they can constructively respond to community problems. Researchers can find they are inspired by the heroism of their partners, and are more able to bring about policy change as they include processes of advocacy and public education in the research process. Both partners in research can more readily bring about social transformation as they work authentically together.


Author Posting © Katherine McCrea 2014. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Empowerment: Diagnosis – Reflection – Activity Orientations in Social Work, 2014.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.