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Ethical Guidelines

The Need to Follow Ethical Principles

Qualitative research involves asking people to be open in disclosing fine details of their lives. Research must be conducted with sensitivity to the consequences for the participants. Through their involvement, they should not be deceived, exploited or harmed in any way.

Informed Consent

In most cases, interviewers ask for written consent from interview participants, as well as explaining to them verbally the purpose and goals of the research and the specific requests being made of them, such as how long the interview is expected to take. Interviewers make it clear to participants that their involvement is voluntary and that they are free to withdraw their consent at any time. They anticipate and explain any risks that may arise for the participant as a result of the interview. Also, interviewers may invite respondents to review the transcript of their interview so that sensitive material can be excluded from the study. Finally, some interviewers give a copy of the research draft to respondents to ensure they are comfortable with the interpretation of their words.

Anonymity and Confidentiality

The major type of risk to anticipate is that the respondent will be identified as a member of the study and that some form of harm will result. To minimize this risk, interviewers offer to disguise obvious aspects of the respondent's identity, such as by using pseudonyms in place of proper names. Unless respondents agree that their participation can be made public, interviewers do not disclose who their respondents are to other respondents, colleagues or readers.

Honesty, Sympathy and Respect

Ethical behaviour towards research participants includes treating them with honesty, sympathy and respect. These guiding principles will not only ensure ethical research, they are the minimum requirement for creating rapport between interviewer and respondent.

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