Ethical Issues in Qualitative Research: What Would You Do?

Year: 1998

Author: Konza, Deslea

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper aims to generate a discussion of ethical dilemmas which have faced the presenter when engaging in research relating to students with a range of special needs. Several of the dilemmas have arisen when conducting interviews with the parents of these children:

- when the issue of confidentiality conflicted with disclosures of illegal activity, including child abuse;
- when it became difficult to determine whether or not consent given prior to the research was, in fact, informed, due to literacy, cognitive or psychiatricproblems which became evident throughout the research;
- when 'reflective listening' and 'acceptance of individual realities' would have involved reflecting back damaging personal beliefs; and
- when the role of interviewer appeared to merge with that of counsellor.

This paper highlights the responsibilities of those working in the growing field of qualitative research. It is hoped that a discussion of these issues will result in a clearer understanding of some of the difficulties associated with qualitative research and of our responsibilities towards people willing to assist us in our research, especially those who may be particularly vulnerable.