Problematising voice in qualitative health professional education research


  • Rola Ajjawi Deakin University



qualitative research, quality, voice


Qualitative research is inherently relational, thus paying attention to subjectivities is important. As researchers, we are fundamentally entangled in the research through the decisions we make about design, the rapport and shaping of interviews to construct the data and the lenses we bring to interpretation and sense making. This is a multivoiced project, including at the very minimum, the researcher(s)’ voice and those of the participants. And yet we see several practices that either elide our role in the research and/or labour under the misapprehension that only the participants’ voice matters. This paper unpacks common practices that misrepresent the multivoicedness of qualitative research and presents strategies that acknowledge and work with the complexities of representing voice in research. E.B. White aptly said, “I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that does not have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.”


Ajjawi, R., Hilder, J., Noble, C., Teodorczuk, A., & Billett, S. (2020). Using video-reflexive ethnography to understand complexity and change practice. Medical Education, 50(10), 908–914.

Ajjawi, R., Olson, R. E., & McNaughton, N. (2022). Emotion as reflexive practice: A new discourse for feedback practice and research. Medical Education, 56(5), 480–488.

Bearman, M., Greenhill, J., & Nestel, D. (2019). The power of simulation: A large-scale narrative analysis of learners’ experiences. Medical Education, 53(4), 369–379.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.

Bruskin, S. (2019). Insider or outsider? Exploring the fluidity of the roles through social identity theory. Journal of Organizational Ethnography, 8(2), 159–170.

Cristancho, S., Watling, C. J., & Lingard, L. A. (2021). Three principles for writing an effective qualitative results section. Focus on Health Professional Education, 22(3), 110–124.

Lingard, L. (2019). Beyond the default colon: Effective use of quotes in qualitative research. Perspectives on Medical Education, 8(6), 360–364.

Lingard, L., & Watling, C. (2021). Story, not study: 30 brief lessons to inspire health researchers as writers. Springer International.

Mazzei, L. A., & Jackson, A. Y. (2012). Complicating voice in a refusal to “let participants speak for themselves”. Qualitative Inquiry, 18(9), 745–751.

McLeod, J. (2011). Student voice and the politics of listening in higher education. Critical Studies in Education, 52(2), 179–189.

Milligan, L. (2016). Insider-outsider-inbetweener? Researcher positioning, participative methods and cross-cultural educational research. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 46(2), 235–250.

Monrouxe, L. V. (2009). Solicited audio diaries in longitudinal narrative research: A view from inside. Qualitative Research, 9(1), 81–103.

Morse, J. (2017). Reframing rigor in qualitative inquiry. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (5th ed., pp. 1373–1409). SAGE.

Olson, R. E. (2021). Emotions in human research ethics guidelines: Beyond risk, harm and pathology. Qualitative Research.

Olson, R. E., Smith, A., Good, P., Neate, E., Hughes, C., & Hardy, J. (2020). Emotionally reflexive labour in end-of-life communication. Social Science & Medicine, 291, Article 112928.

Pillow, W. (2003). Confession, catharsis, or cure? Rethinking the uses of reflexivity as methodological power in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(2), 175–196.

Rees, C. E., Ajjawi, R., & Monrouxe, L. V. (2013). The construction of power in family medicine bedside teaching: A video observation study. Medical Education, 47(2), 154–165.

Regehr, G. (2010). It’s NOT rocket science: Rethinking our metaphors for research in health professions education. Medical Education, 44(1), 31–39.

Roulston, K., & Shelton, S. A. (2015). Reconceptualizing bias in teaching qualitative research methods. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(4), 332–342.

Stahl, B. C. (2014). Interpretive accounts and fairy tales: A critical polemic against the empiricist bias in interpretive IS research. European Journal of Information Systems, 23(1), 1–11.

Tesch, R. (1987). Emerging themes: The researcher’s experience. Phenomenology + Pedagogy, 5(3), 230–240.

Tummons, J. (2014). The textual representation of professionalism: Problematising professional standards for teachers in the UK lifelong learning sector. Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 19(1), 33–44.

van Manen, M. (1997). Researching lived experence: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Varpio, L., Ajjawi, R., Monrouxe, L. V., O'Brien, B. C., & Rees, C. E. (2017). Shedding the cobra effect: Problematising thematic emergence, triangulation, saturation and member checking. Medical Education, 51(1), 40–50.

Varpio, L., O'Brien, B., Rees, C. E., Monrouxe, L., Ajjawi, R., & Paradis, E. (2021). The applicability of generalisability and bias to health professions education's research. Medical Education, 55(2), 167–173.

Watling, C. J., & Lingard, L. (2012). Grounded theory in medical education research: AMEE Guide No. 70. Medical Teacher, 34(10), 850–861.

Young, M. E., & Ryan, A. (2020). Postpositivism in health professions education scholarship. Academic Medicine, 95(5), 695–699.




How to Cite

Ajjawi, R. (2022). Problematising voice in qualitative health professional education research. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 23(2), 69–78.



Focus on Methodology