Ethical issues in qualitative educational research with vulnerable families
Association for Qualitative Research
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Education
Qualitative research with vulnerable families often involves engaging with people at a very personal level, and can result in unexpected and complex issues emerging that demand sensitive and respectful responses. Ethics committees cannot always provide definitive guidelines that can be called upon to direct responses when in the midst of a complex array of human emotions. This paper aims to generate a discussion of ethical issues that faced the writer when engaged in research relating to students with special needs. Dilemmas arose when conducting interviews with the parents of these children that significantly challenged the researcher, and prompted a number of confronting questions regarding the conduct of qualitative research. This paper includes suggestions relating to the content of research courses, namely extended use of debriefing; negotiated consent; and collaboration with other professionals. In addition, the need to be mindful of the needs and wellbeing of the participants, as well as the research outcomes is highlighted.