Ethics in Fieldwork: Reflections on the Unexpected

Article


Palmer, Jane, Fam, Dena, Smith, Tanzi and Kilham, Sarina. 2014. "Ethics in Fieldwork: Reflections on the Unexpected." Qualitative Report: an online journal dedicated to qualitative research since 1990. 19 (28), pp. 1-13.
Article Title

Ethics in Fieldwork: Reflections on the Unexpected

ERA Journal ID35716
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsPalmer, Jane, Fam, Dena, Smith, Tanzi and Kilham, Sarina
Journal TitleQualitative Report: an online journal dedicated to qualitative research since 1990
Journal Citation19 (28), pp. 1-13
Article Number14
Number of Pages14
Year2014
Place of PublicationUnited States
ISSN1052-0147
Web Address (URL)https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol19/iss28/3/
Abstract

Research involving fieldwork can present the researcher with ethical dilemmas not anticipated in institutional ethics approval processes, and which offer profound personal and methodological challenges. The authors' experiences of conducting qualitative fieldwork in four distinctly different contexts are used to illustrate some of these unexpected consequences and ethical dilemmas. Issues encountered included: compromised relationships with informants which develop in unforeseen ways; engagement with traumatized informants which lead to unexpected roles for the researcher such as confidante, dealing with new information that is critical to informants' futures but could undermine the research project, and the implications of ethical decisions for research design and analysis. In our shared reflection on the four case studies in this paper, we examine anticipatory rather than reactive ways of dealing with such ethical dilemmas. Preparation and critical reflection are found to be key tools in relating to field informants, dealing with the personal challenges of undertaking field work, and developing useful research outcomes after returning home. We conclude by suggesting some issues for field researchers to consider in addition to the concerns addressed in a standard university ethics approval process.

KeywordsFieldwork; Fieldwork Design; Qualitative Research; Research Ethics; University Ethics Guidelines
Scopus ID85016286222
Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Technology Sydney
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https://research.usq.edu.au/item/v8732/ethics-in-fieldwork-reflections-on-the-unexpected

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