What Are Qualitative Research Ethics

By Jackson, Damond | Journal of Research Administration, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

What Are Qualitative Research Ethics


Jackson, Damond, Journal of Research Administration


What Are Qualitative Research Ethics by Rose Wiles (2013) Bloomsbury Academic. London. New York. ISBN. 978-1-84996-652-7

In her recent work, "What are qualitative research ethics?, Wiles addresses the novel and unique ethical dilemmas that arise when conducting research in the qualitative methodological research paradigm. There are multiple perspectives and questions regarding ethics in this discipline. Wiles poses the question that drives much of the dissent-what are research ethics? The answer is not linear and involves much complexity. Research ethics are dynamic and, as Wiles puts it, concern more than committee approval. Despite the inherent complexity of qualitative research ethics, Wiles creatively interweaves the academic/technical with the professional/practical and presents a well-developed argument for research ethics as a process of 'ethical literacy' instead of rules and regulations. It is the concept of ethical literacy that defines and situates qualitative research ethics in the larger discipline of research ethics. Wiles provides an introductory text that outlines frameworks for considering ethical issues as they arise during the course of qualitative research. She intends that her book would be a resource for students and researchers in the social sciences.

Wiles contends that ethical literacy is the crux of qualitative research ethics. It is this notion that informs qualitative methodology relative to determining the ethical parameters of research. It is important to note that ethical literacy is not the answer, but provides a pathway to possible answers or solutions?. Ethical literacy requires an evolving dialogue concerning the best way to ensure that research itself unfolds in an ethical manner. This continuous unfolding begins by seeing ethical research as more than Institutional Review Board approval for the protection of participants in research. Wiles contends that ethics should permeate every step of research. This perspective is necessary because Wiles contends that ethical issues can arise throughout the research process, particularly in qualitative research where sometimes the path is unclear until several participant interactions have been completed and data analyzed. Ethical literacy can therefore be viewed as an informed framework from which researchers make decisions relative to the ethics of their research process. This perspective includes fundamental principles that inform ethical frameworks in the design of the research as well as the unfolding dynamic processes of ethical decision-making during a qualitative research study.

While it is an introductory text, it is not elementary. The content of Wiles' work includes standard/traditional ethical principles and practices as well as contemporary and creative ideas and principles that inform the undertaking of ethical research. She eloquently connects the historical circumstances that gave rise to certain ethical principles and practices, thereby highlighting the rationale and the necessity of their inclusion in the building of one's ethical literacy. She discusses the Nuremberg Code, the syphilis study conducted at Tuskegee by the Public Health Service, the Belmont Report and other historical incidents and precedents that inform the base of our modern ethical frameworks.

This historical catalog informs the structure of the content of her work as well. It is impressive that she includes traditional perspectives of Western ethics and connects these principles with contemporary issues and concerns. Wiles' work covers informed consent, anonymity and conformity, risk and safety, and contemporary issues involving information sharing, e-research and other contemporary concerns of qualitative research ethics. …

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