By Maggie Walter
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Additional info for Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Research Methodology
Our thinking started with the ambiguities of our own field, social science. As teachers we emphasize to students the scientific, methodical aspects of research practice, the need for clarity of purpose, transparency of approach, and rigor of method and objectivity in analysis and interpretation. However, we also stress that the practice of social research is not a neutral endeavor. No research is “objective” if by objective one means standing outside of social power. For if research is truly impartial, how can we explain why we prioritize some social 44 Chapter 2 research projects over others or why some questions are asked, but not others?
Indeed, when asked why Statistics Canada made the switch from ethnicity to self-identification permanent, one Statistics Canada research participant concurred that this was most probably the case (see Andersen in press). While the identity population has come to represent the base of virtually all analyzed and publicly disseminated data on Aboriginal people in Canada, important questions remain about what the switch actually means epistemologically and what it might indicate in terms of our understandings of identity.
Participatory Action Research, for example, centers the ownership and control of the research enquiry, process, and practice with the community that is the subject of the research problem; the researcher is considered the facilitator (Walter 2010b). Critical Discourse Analysis places the importance of accounting for power and its deployment at the heart of its research practice and disavows the possibility of objectivity within any research method (Jacobs 2010). A few methodological tracts do define aspects of their epistemological framing, but they are exceptions that prove the rule and highlight the absence of this practice within these debates more generally.