Ethical Issues of Qualitative Research

Ethical Issues of Qualitative Research

Md. Salah Uddin Rajib, Nusrat Zahan Mou
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5202-6.ch080
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


This chapter is aimed to discuss the ethical issues of qualitative research. Because of nature and forms of qualitative research, ethical issues, validity and reliability of qualitative research has been discussed in many research investigations. By nature ethical issues in qualitative research are vague and inherent. These ethical issues of qualitative research have been discussed by researchers and experts from different areas. This chapter discusses the focal points of ethical issues. The interactions and the interest of concerned parties of qualitative research form the ethical issues. Moreover, different views (Positivistic and relativistic) of ethical issues of qualitative research raise some complexity. This chapter discusses the various issue of qualitative research from various perspectives. Researchers' opinions on the ethical issues of qualitative research have been discussed, and after that the chapter has been arranged with the basic ethical issues of qualitative research as the area is vary vast.
Chapter Preview


In broad, research approach can be classified in two categories; Qualitative research approach and Quantitative research approach. Qualitative research has been defined in various ways. Basically, Qualitative researchers are interested in understanding the meaning people have constructed, that is, how people make sense of their world and the experiences they have in the world (Merriam, 2009). The qualitative nature of research may be derived from the research issue, the methods used, the analysis strategies, and the scientific justification of procedure used (Heyink, & Tymstra, 1993). Qualitative research my follow various form like Phenomenology, Case Study, Ethnography, Inductive Thematic Analysis, Grounded Theory, Discourse/Conversation Analysis, Narrative Analysis and Mixed Methods. Qualitative data may drive form audio, text or video sources (Ryan, & Bernard, 2000). Data may be collected by participant observation, in-depth interviews, focus groups or by document analysis. These various nature, form, research execution style and research input raise different complexity in their respective area.

Generally, the term ‘Ethics’ is associated with the discipline like philosophy and theology. Ethics is often defied as a system of moral principles, which standard and concepts defined, systematized and recommend concepts of right or wrong behavior (James, 2003). Ethics is relative at least to an extent also. Therefore, it is agreed that subject moral, social, political and cultural back forms the shape of ethics in the relevant environment.

Area of qualitative research is vast. Qualitative research can be found in the area of social science including economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, politics, geography and law and in the area of applied science including nursing research, pharmacy practice research, social work research and so on (Murphy, Dingwall, Greatbatch, Parker, & Watson, 1998). Consequently, ethical concern is vast. Ethical issues are important to ensure the common standard of the research. However, argument has emerged for differentiating the ethical issues for different areas e.g., between social research and medical research (e.g., Tanner, & Shaw, 2000). This chapter discusses the common ethical issues from the perspective of research process.

Qualitative researchers are increasingly recognizing the struggle to find the sound balance between the autobiography of the researcher and biography of the participants. At the time of collection of data, it is required for the researcher to collect the real thinking of participants. At the same time, he/she must ensure that the participants are not influenced by the researchers. Be a ‘snooping stranger’ and a ‘good friend’ simultaneously is big dilemma in many forms of qualitative research (Jarvie, 1982).In case of data analysis, researchers also play a dual role as a researcher and a research subject, which adds a complex layer to the subsequent analysis of data (Matteson, Lincoln, & Yvonna, 2009). Therefore, researchers own values often shape the studies they conduct. Ethical issues are concerned from the questionnaire development processes to the interpretation of the research results in the qualitative research. And ethical issues appear in various forms. Ethical issues might be discussed from various perspective; the research methodology, rights and obligation of the concerned parties, research interest etc.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Utilitarian View: Utilitarian view of justice states that practices are judged right or wrong depending on whether they produce happiness or satisfaction for the greatest number of people.

Qualitative Research: Concerned with the meaning of context is the premise of qualitative research. Basically, qualitative research connects the philosophical bearing to the observable facts. Qualitative research provides information by case studies, narrative analysis or by proposition.

Ethics Consent Form: Ethics consent form is an information sheet for the potential participants. Generally, it includes, 1) Background to the research, 2) Possible demands on participants, 3) Question about participants consent and 4) the official bits.

Positivistic View: Positivistic view of ethics is based on the biomedical approach to research ethics. Ethical stance of biomedical is based on the values of autonomy, beneficence, non-beneficence and justice.

Ethnographic Research: Ethnographic research can be defined as the studying of human cultures through close observation, reading and interpretation. Ethnographic research is aimed to explore the participants view by entering in the world of the participants.

Relativistic View: Relativistic view is based on the common moral values of a community. Ethical stance of Relativistic view has been articulated based on feminist communitarian philosophy.

Hawthorne Effect: An unintended effect on the results of a research experiment caused by the subjects knowing that they are participants.

Longitudinal Study: the study that takes long period of time, especially where the selected responder is observed over a long period of time.

Narrative Analysis: Narrative analysis is often defined as content analysis. Narrative data may come in various forms and from various sources. Basically, narrative analysis focuses on how elements are sequenced.

Feminist View: Feminist view emerged from the philosophy of establishing equal political, economic and social right for women. Feminist perspective has been subject of ethical issues of qualitative research from various ways, e.g., researchers are concerned whether feminist perspective has become synonymous with ethical ways of working.

Field Research: Field research or fieldwork is undertaken outside of closed environment or laboratory. Generally, field work is conducted in a natural environment or among the general public. Fieldwork is visible both in social science research and applied science research.

Ethics: Very often ethics is recognized as a branch of philosophy. Ethics is often defined as a system so moral principles, which standard and concepts defined, systemized and recommend concepts of right or wrong behavior.

Ethical Dilemma: Ethical dilemma is defined as state of mental conflict between moral principle or moral imperative.

Peer Debriefing: “It is a process of exposing oneself to a disinterested peer in a manner paralleling an analytical sessions and for the purpose of exploring aspects of the inquiry that might otherwise remain only implicit within the inquirer's mind” (Lincoln, & Guba, 1985 AU50: The in-text citation "Lincoln, & Guba, 1985" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , p. 308)

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: