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Your Personality is a Research Tool

Researchers can sometimes hide humanizing aspects of themselves during ethnographic sessions and come off as robotic or artificial (no offense, robots). While it makes sense that researchers should reduce aspects of their self-presentation when they want to learn about someone else, humanizing aspects should not be banished from an ethnographic session. A researcher’s self-presentation is a profoundly important tool for connecting with research participants and unlocking a world of hidden feelings and behaviors.

The more human you are (read: the more your participants can empathize with you), the more they will trust you and want to share intimate details about their lives. Capturing these details will make your research more deeply revealing and valuable. You’ll know you’re on the right path when you start getting surprised by what you learn.