In this article, I explore the potential for people with disabilities to conduct research about disability in education. Drawing upon Rasmussen (2006), I consider whether merely sharing one aspect of identity with participants is enough to gain an emic (insider) perspective when doing research. I argue that not only should we problematize our own identity, but that research should change the researcher’s own identity and that the degree to which research promotes this change is an essential aspect of formal validity of the research. Finally, I propose some practical implications and offer some advice for researchers conducting research on disability.


Queer Theory, Emic Perspective, Disabled Researchers, Non-Disabled Researchers, Validity

Author Bio(s)

James Sheldon is a doctoral student in the Math and Science Focus of the Teaching and Teacher Education Program in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona. His research interests include: qualitative methodology; queer theory; collaborative groupwork; and disability studies in education. He has worked in the field of education for over a decade and has been doing research in the area of learning disability for the past six years. He has a recently released chapter that offers a queer interpretation of collaborative groupwork: “Versatile,” which is in the edited volume, Critical Concepts in Queer Studies and Education: An International Guide for the Twenty-First Century. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jsheldon@email.arizona.edu.


I would like to thank Kai Rands for their extensive feedback on drafts of this article. I would also like to thank Marcy Wood for her detailed commentary and suggestions throughout the process. Finally, I would like to thank the students of the Collaborative Writing Groups seminar in Spring 2016 for their feedback on an early draft of this article.

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