Research Critiquing Report

Emma Rich's Research Study: "Anorexic Dis (Connection): Managing Anorexia as an Illness and an Identity"

Emma Rich's research piece "Anorexic Dis (Connection): Managing Anorexia as an Illness and an Identity" was published in the Sociology of Health & Illness Journal in 2006. Rich conducts research in this piece on the many ways in which women deal with the complications of having an anorexic identity. She deeply explores how such women manage the stigma associated with this identity, as well as how the sufferers relate with their counterparts with similar identities. "Anorexic Dis (Connection): Managing Anorexia as an Illness and an Identity" is a qualitative research article in which Rich uses the experiences of seven girls diagnosed with Anorexia and Bulimia at a leading center for the treatment of eating disorders in the UK to arrive at her findings. In this report, five aspects of Rich's article and critically analyzed and critiqued. These aspects are the problem statement, hypothesis, literature review and framework, research design, and data collection.

Critiquing the Problem Statement

The problem statement is implied in Rich's article. She fails to define the problem clearly, and merely states the purpose of the article as supposed to examine the everyday experience of living with anorexia, the ways in which it is stigmatized by others, and the practices that young women with anorexia engage in as a form of resistance to such stigmatization (2006). Because of the lack of clear definition of the problem statement, there may be a failure to ask the right questions and answer them in the article (Babbie, 2006). Nevertheless, it is easy to identify the phenomenon of interest in the article. Rich expressly intimates that the study is aimed at understanding the social and moral dimensions of Anorexia and Bulimia as the major eating disorders. This is a very crucial area of interest seeing that various discourses around these conditions have previously focused on understanding the medicalized constructions surrounding these conditions, forgetting the social aspect that might even be more significant in the general understanding (Fairburn, 2008). It is clear from the introduction of the article that Rich is poised to explore the interaction between the social construct of these conditions as a phenomenon with the well-being of the sufferers and their various ways of managing life with the identities of Anorexia and Bulimia. The implied problem statement clearly specifies the nature of the population being studied. The population is majorly comprised of young girls aged between 11-18 years who have been diagnosed with Anorexia and Bulimia, and are undergoing treatment. Rich is categorical that the aim of her study is to come up with a clearer understanding of how sufferers of Anorexia and Bulimia exist in the social practices of everyday life. With this understanding, she hopes that there may a better insight into the active role that young women take in understanding their identities within and through anorexia. There is no mention of the feasibility of this study.

Critiquing the Literature Review and Framework

The literature review in this article is very systematically developed and incredibly exhaustive. All the literature reviewed by Rich in the article is significantly related to the subject of Anorexia and what is understood of it so far. The author especially focuses on the work of Warin (2002) who just like herself, exceptionally conducted an ethnographic study on the everyday experiences of individuals living with anorexia. In the literature review, the author focuses on work that supports the social and emotional constructs surrounding Anorexia, while sufficiently citing the opposite viewpoints that focus on the medical context of the subject as well. She identifies what is known about the subject, which tends to be medical-oriented; as well as that which is relatively unknown that tends towards the social and moral dimensions of the subject. Most of the sources reviewed by Rich are secondary, the majority being findings that other researchers have put forth on the issue of Anorexia and other eating disorders. The literature review very adequately demonstrates the importance of research, in the way it highlights how the better researched area of eating disorders (medical context) is far much better understood than the less researched area of this subject (social and emotional context). The author not only gives a critical synthesis of the literature, but also clearly identifies the framework. The framework within which the relationship between disordered eating and schooling is explored, as well the broader patterns in the epidemiology of eating disorders is very consistent with the problem of the everyday experiences of young women living with anorexia and the practices that they engage in. The concepts highlighted by the literature review such as treatment of eating disorders, narratives about health and illness, and biomedical models are very clear and consistent with the theoretical framework. The relationships among the concepts are also clearly stated in the way of how these concepts contribute to the existing knowledge on eating disorders, and the method adopted by the researcher in her study.

Critiquing the Research Design

The phenomenon study is very relevant to health service. Anorexia is a condition that has affected humans, especially young people, for a long time; and its effects continue to reach further. Monell et al. (2015) observe that this disorder that was previously prevalent among the young people has begun to manifest significantly in university women and even those beyond such institutions of learning. Rich (2006) observes that this disorder is beginning to spread to communities that were previously considered unsusceptible such as those in India, Mexico, and Brazil. Anorexia has been described by Lask and Bryant-Waugh (2000) as the most fatal of psychiatric illnesses. The researcher does not describe the design used. It is, nonetheless, evident that an exploratory design was used in this study. The researcher went on an expedition to gain insight on the various ways in which young women deal with the complexities of having an anorexic identity. This kind of an expedition fits with Speer's (2006) description of an exploratory study. This research design also fits with the research question that is pegged on the examination of the everyday experience of living with anorexia, the ways in which it is stigmatized by others, and the practices that young women with anorexia engage in as a form of resistance to such stigmatization. Through an exploratory study, it is possible to satisfactorily answer these questions. Similarly, this design fits with the literature review and conceptual framework. Most of the existing literature has focused on the medical context of the problem of Anorexia, necessitating the use of such a design as an exploratory one to gather information on the relatively new other area of this subject that is the social and emotional context (Treasure & Schmidt, 2013). The researcher gives such information as the ages of the participants, the length of time they had stayed at the clinic, and their individual diagnostics. This information given by the researcher is enough to make judgements about the credibility, auditability, and fittingness of the findings. To further this credibility, the researcher also quotes word-for-word utterances of the participants and those of the ethnographer which can then be easily traced back to the speakers. She uses the data source type of triangulation to converge information from different sources. The accounts of the participants are included in the research, as well as those of the ethnographer who was interviewing the girls, and the teachers at the clinic.

Critiquing the Sampling Method

The researcher gives enough information on how the sample was chosen. According to her, the results are derived from interviewing of young girls who have been diagnosed with Anorexia and are living at the clinic. This inclusion criteria makes sense as Anorexia and other eating disorders are more prevalent among young girls. The population under study was young girls between the ages of 11 to 18 years (Rich, 2006). According to Latzer and Stein (2016), these are the teenage years during which young girls are most likely to develop eating disorders. The ages of the seven girls who participated in the study were well distributed within the age bracket of interest, thereby likely to give a result that is a representative of the larger population. Lydia was 14 years old, Mia 16 years, Hayley 15, Lauren 17, Ellie 11, Emily 13, and Karen 18 (Rich, 2006). Besides, each one of the participants was at a different level of diagnosis of the disorder, and had been at the clinic for different lengths of time. Lydia had been at the clinic for seven weeks, Mia 25 weeks, Hayley 53, Lauren had a three-year history of Anorexia, Ellie had been there for 16 weeks, and Karen had already spent there three weeks on her return visit (Rich, 2006). These differences indicate that the study was able to capture the experiences of girls at different and highly varied stages in diagnosis and treatment, thereby being a representative of the larger population. The researcher also mentions that at the time of the study only one of the 25 young people attending was male, and he did not participate in any individual interviews. This exclusion criteria makes sense as the population of interest for the study was young women. Of the 24 remaining attendees, seven girls made up the sample size based on willingness. This sample size makes sense given that the overall population at the clinic was not significantly big.

Critiquing the Data Collection

The kind of data being collected is primary and qualitative. It basically is the narrations by the various girls on their experiences of living with Anorexia. The data sources are clearly specified as the seven young girls to whom questions were asked, the ethnographer, and the head teacher at the school. The methods of data collection are also clearly specified as interviews and observation. Stebbins (2001) asserts that interviews and observation are appropriate for an exploratory research. The two methods of data collection also fit with the research problem that needed the examination of the everyday experience of living with anorexia, the ways in which it is stigmatized by others, and the practices that young women with anorexia engage in as a form of resistance to such stigmatization. There is evidence that credibility, auditability, and fittingness have been considered; looking at the ages of each participant, the length of time they have been at the facility, and the directed quotations of their words of speech which can be directly traced back to them. Potential biases in data collection are neither identified nor addressed in the research paper.


In conclusion, Rich has significantly met the requirements of a well-performed qualitative research. The problem statement of the research is implied but with an easily identifiable phenomenon of interest, and a clear aim of the study. The literature review and framework are systematic, exhaustive, related to the topic of interest, and with clear concepts that are consistent and have well-stated relationships. An exploratory research design is used to gain insight into the experiences of women living with Anorexia, which then fits with the research question. Lastly, interviews and observation are used to collect data for the study. These are very appropriate methods for the research question and design, and the research has evidence of consideration of credibility, auditability, and fittingness.


Babbie, E. (2006). The Basics of Social Research. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Fairburn, C. (2008). Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Lask, B. and Bryant-Waugh, R. (2000) Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.

Latzer, Y., & Stein, D. (2016). Bio-Psycho-Social Contributions to Understanding Eating Disorders. New York, NY: Springer.

Monell, E., Högdahl, L., Mantilla Forsén, E., & Birgegård, A. (2015). Emotion Dysregulation, Self-Image and Eating Disorder Symptoms in University Women. Journal of Eating Disorders, 2015, 3-44.

Rich, E. (2006). Anorexic Dis (Connection): Managing Anorexia as an Illness and an Identity. Sociology of Health & Illness, 28(3), 284-305.

Speer, J. (2006). Experiential Learning and Exploratory Research: The 13th Annual North American Dendroecological Fieldweek (NADEF). Terre Haute, IN: Indiana State University.

Stebbins, R. (2001). Exploratory Research in the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Treasure, J., & Schmidt, U. (2013). The Cognitive-Interpersonal Maintenance Model of Anorexia Nervosa Revisited: A Summary of the Evidence for Cognitive, Socio-Emotional and Interpersonal Predisposing and Perpetuating Factors. Journal of Eating Disorders, 2013, 1-13.

Warin, M. (2002). Becoming and Unbecoming: Abject Relations in Anorexia. (Unpublished Doctoral Thesis). Adelaide University, Adelaide.

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