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How to pay attention to the words we use: the Reflexive Review as a method for linguistic reflexivity

Alejandro, Audrey ORCID: 0000-0002-3675-8986 and Knott, Eleanor ORCID: 0000-0002-9131-3939 (2022) How to pay attention to the words we use: the Reflexive Review as a method for linguistic reflexivity. International Studies Review, 24 (3). ISSN 1521-9488

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Identification Number: 10.1093/isr/viac025


Despite the imperative to pay attention to the words we use as a routine dimension of research, the methodological and pedagogical tools illustrating how to work on our own use of language are largely missing within and beyond international relations (IR). To address this gap, we develop a method—the “Reflexive Review”—which adds a linguistic and reflexive dimension to the common practice of a literature review. This method is accessible for researchers who are neither linguistic specialists nor working on language and can be integrated within a standalone research project. First, we review the existing traditions used in IR to investigate language—quantitative text analysis, conceptual analysis, discourse analysis, deconstruction, and problematization—and assess their interest and limits regarding linguistic reflexivity. Second, we introduce four methodological steps for conducting the Reflexive Review, by reviewing literature to: (1) build a list of “priority words” that may need reflexive attention; (2) look for metalinguistic statements to synthesize how the literature has explicitly discussed these words; (3) identify patterns of word use, as collectively shared meanings that coexist and that we should become aware of; and (4) compare the identified uses of language with our own. Third, we demonstrate the Reflexive Review in practice based on a word commonly used in IR: “local.” We identify four patterns of the word use of “local” in IR literature as: a class of actors, a level of analysis, community, and experiences of the everyday. In sum, we demonstrate how a Reflexive Review enables us to implement reflexivity in practice and make more conscious linguistic choices, to support more nuanced, ethical, and rigorous analysis and empirical work.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2022 09:21
Last Modified: 17 May 2024 01:54

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