Risky business: the ethical dilemmas of qualitative methodology in practice

Year: 2011

Author: Zipf, Reyna, Harreveld, Bobby, Harrison, Allan

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper is about the challenges encountered when a novice researcher with insider status puts a qualitative methodological approach into practice. It analyses the ethical dilemmas that confronted the novice researcher when entering the data collection phase using a case study approach and semi-structured interviews and observations. Insider research opens a Pandora's box of ethical and emotional dilemmas for the novice researcher. Initial forays suggest that there is a dissonance between the theory and practice of this methodological approach and that when the researcher enters the data collection phase they encounter risks to self, risks to researcher- researched relationships, and risks to insider status. The ethical tensions that developed imposed a block to the progress of the research. The dilemmas were navigated using strategic risk-taking on the part of both the researcher and the researched. This paper problematized the moral conduct of research and provided a process for addressing it. The issue is significant for all researchers as insider dilemmas are never resolved, but they can be dealt with while remaining ever vigilant for there recurrence.