research validity

Validity of research needs to be assessed based on the epistemology and ontology within which the research has been conducted and re-presented (Dillard, 2003a; Robottom & Hart, 1993; Hart, 2000; Clark, Brody, Dillon et. al., 2007). Yet when research and representation do not fit the constructed norms of the "Big Four" paradigms of social science research (positivism, post-positivism, critical theory et. al. and constructivism) (Dillard, 2006b, p. 60), and congruence rather than coherence is its aim, what criteria, then, will be used to assess the 'rigor' of the research or the validity of the 'text'? Dillard (2006b) argues that research paradigms,

make clear the norms and rules of acceptable and reasonable scholarship. From this point of view, any 'good' scholar ought to be able to or should measure her/his scholarship by these paradigmatic 'norms' to determine its credibility and legitimacy within the field of educational research. Identification within the paradigmatic hegemony as it is currently articulated allows legitimization of what is or is not important or reasonable – and sets up the boundaries for the inclusion or exclusion of those voices that do not conform or adhere to its norms, rules and structures (p. 62).

How then might validity be assessed within a worldview that assumes non-human persons are engaged as active participants in research processes? What criteria are to be used when the journey through the dissertation may be different every time you approach it? When the representations are multiple, layered (Dillard, 2003b; Richardson & St. Pierre, 2005), and often aim to disrupt thinking itself? Is catalytic validity (Lather, 1993) enough? (the 'My journey' link offers a map, and the potential to analyze the effects of, a dialogic reading journey).

If we understand research "as a political intervention that seeks to challenge, even as it constitutes or reproduces" and assess research validity "not in terms of truth-telling, but in relation to the role the research plays in maintaining or disrupting power relations in society" (McKenzie, 2005b, p. 11), then how might I – or can I – challenge  the power relations embedded in a human/nature binary, a binary that, despite my best intentions, I continually reproduce as I speak of and try to represent the more-than-human? And then what happens if I add spirit into the mix? Might nurturing the imagination help prevent us from "reduc[ing] the unknown subjectivity of an 'other' being to the limited range of our own experiences" (Fawcett, 2000, p. 140)? Or our own discursive constructions about what that experience might be?