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Action Research – Ethical Issues. CARN Study Day Liverpool Hope University May 2005. What is research?. A way of finding things out Finding out how to do things better Finding out why we do things the way we do Gaining an understanding of how things work or happen

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Action Research – Ethical Issues

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Action Research – Ethical Issues

CARN Study Day

Liverpool Hope University

May 2005

What is research?

  • A way of finding things out

  • Finding out how to do things better

  • Finding out why we do things the way we do

  • Gaining an understanding of how things work or happen

  • Challenging our assumptions

Action Research

  • Impacting our practice

  • Reviewing our practice

  • Justifying our practice

  • Amending our practice

  • Improving our practice

  • Sharing best practice

Research Ethics

  • Carrying out research in a morally responsible way

  • Not disadvantaging anyone by the research

  • Respecting others’ opinions and rights

  • Working within an ethical code

  • Seeking permission/access











Hippocratic Oath

- the foundation for medical ethics;

“first do no harm”

Data Protection Act 1998

This gives priority to personal privacy

and protection of personal information.

Anyone who wants to collect personal

data must say how the information will

be used, who will have access to it, and

that it will not be stored or shared any

longer than necessary.

(This also relies upon the integrity of

the researcher)

The Integrity of the Researcher

  • Personal / professional ethics

  • Personal / professional responsibility

  • Professional code of conduct will require

  • adherence to ethical guidelines and

  • principles.

  • Ethics committee

  • Personal responsibility to be honest

  • throughout.

  • The Power Imbalance

  • Unethical to;

  • suppress data or skew findings.

  • video or photograph without consent.

  • breach confidentiality.

There are some grey areas though……...

Ethnography - capturing behaviour when

people do not feel they are being observed.

Participation or exploitation?

Covert or overt observation?

Non-participant or participant observer?

A participant could be wielding influence…

A non-participant could be projecting /

offering own viewpoint...

Both would argue they were being

academically rigorous and ethically


Personal integrity is crucial -

and acknowledge possible bias or

influence in findings.

Ethical Guidelines

Respect participants.

Seek permission / informed consent

Explanation from researcher as to nature

and purpose of research.

Recorded personal data will be destroyed

as soon as appropriate.

Ethical Guidelines

Responsibility to participant where

project involves sensitive personal


Maintaining confidentiality.

Always be aware that individuals have a

right to access information organisations

may be keeping on them.

‘Those who contribute to research findings

as informants or as research subjects, should

be no worse off at the end of their participation

than they were when they started.’

Denscombe, M. (2003)

The Good Research Guide O.U. Press

‘What are the narrative constructs

of bereaved parents?’


  • Qualitative research- looking in-depth at what happens and gathering opinions and interpretations (narrative)

  • Quantitative research – measuring, categorising, drawing conclusions, making causal links (numerical)







Some considerations:

  • Relationship of researcher to participants

  • Prior relationship

  • 3. Assumptions

  • 4. Influence

Further considerations:

  • ‘Control group’ interviewed by a stranger

  • Original participants interviewed by a

  • stranger

  • External supervision

  • Triangulation

  • Integrity of the researcher

‘I only want what is in your mind

and in your heart’

David Tasma


‘I’ll be a window in your home’

Research offers the world a

window onto our practice

Action research flings the windows open

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