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Ethical Relations. Jenny Graham, Ini Grewal, Jane Lewis Presentation to the ESRC Research Methods Festival July 2006. Coverage of talk. introduction to the study conceptions of ethics the decision-making process and information needs the centrality of the interview interaction

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ethical relations

Ethical Relations

Jenny Graham, Ini Grewal, Jane Lewis

Presentation to the

ESRC Research Methods Festival

July 2006

coverage of talk
Coverage of talk
  • introduction to the study
  • conceptions of ethics
  • the decision-making process and information needs
  • the centrality of the interview interaction
  • managing information disclosure
  • the footprint of the interview
  • discussion points
ethical relations4
Ethical Relations


  • to explore research participants’ ethical requirements


  • literature review
  • following up 10 participants in each of 5 NatCen studies
  • in-depth interviews, purposive sampling, analysed using Framework
conceptualising ethics
Conceptualising ethics
  • choice between framing through- researcher conceptions- participant conceptions
  • middle position taken- explore participant conception of ethics - explore experience of participating in research esp aspects key to researcher conception of ethics- explore fit with participant concept of ethics
operationalising our approach the interview structure
Operationalising our approach: the interview structure
  • meaning of ethics
  • application to research context
  • reconstruction of interview- significant, positive and negative features
  • walk through research process- experiences, reactions, requirements- important aspects to get right, advice would give
  • summarising most important aspects
  • (where possible) relating back to initial concept of ethics
initial conceptions of ethics
Initial conceptions of ethics
  • varying degrees of familiarity and clarity
  • key components:- respect- morality, integrity, probity- beyond self-interest- processual
experiential concepts of ethics
knowing what to expect

clarity about purpose

legitimacy and safety




rapport and behaviour

scope to withhold, control, end


respect for privacy

management of distress

use made

accuracy and lack of bias


Experiential concepts of ethics


and information needs

process of decision making
Process of decision-making
  • typically swift decision at first contact
  • little evidence of weighing up pros and cons, benefit and harm
  • 4 decision-making pathways- motivation- absence of disinclination- reassurance or persuasion- sense of compulsion
a relationship of trust
A relationship of trust
  • worthwhile purpose
  • will be heard and acted on
  • genuine and confidential
  • can withhold
  • boundaries respected
  • assumptions readily formed
  • little understanding of nature of interview interaction
  • more information needs in retrospect

Centrality of the

interview interaction

centrality of the interview
Centrality of the interview
  • centrality of the interviewer-participant interaction
  • central to being ‘comfortable’
  • implications for the data given
central features of the interview
Central features of the interview
  • interviewer behaviour and characteristics in relation to the participant
    • gender matching and information exchange not emphasised
  • views and feelings about the questions asked
    • relevance
    • clarity
    • whether represent views/areas viewed as important
  • interaction between these elements
preparation for the interview and limiting disclosure
Preparation for the interview and limiting disclosure
  • concerns re privacy
  • emphasis in participant recall on the voluntary nature of answering questions
  • and yet..
  • rare to prepare what areas not going to discuss
  • if thought given prior to interview is about ‘performance’
limiting disclosure during the interview
Limiting disclosure during the interview
  • rare in practice
  • type of information withheld during interview:
    • financial, relationships, health & wellbeing
  • reasons for withholding
    • relevance
    • sensitivity/intrusiveness
    • lack of trust in confidentiality
strategies employed to withhold information
Strategies employed to withhold information
  • Qualitative
  • giving outline, no detail
  • ‘rigging’
  • talking ‘off the record’
  • Survey
  • choosing ‘none of the above’
  • explicit in ‘don’t want to answer’
facilitators to withholding
Facilitators to withholding
  • information in advance re question areas
  • assertion/reassurance that info giving voluntary
  • quality of interaction with the interviewer
  • not being asked to explain lack of disclosure
  • being in own home/territory
  • personal confidence
pressures against withholding
Pressures against withholding
  • value of study (ends justifying means)
  • commitment/obligation/manners
  • previously disclosed
  • demonstrating openness
  • passive construction of role
  • voluntary nature of disclosure - symbolic versus literal
  • ‘beguiling’?

Interview aftermath:

the ‘footprint’ of


the footprints
The ‘footprints’
  • Positive
  • value of contribution
  • validation of experience
  • increased awareness and understanding
  • enhanced view of self
  • Negative
  • reliving past difficult experiences
  • mental ‘cost’ of participation
  • view of self or responses
  • concern over purpose, usefulness or confidentiality
weighing up positive and negative footprints
Weighing up positive and negative footprints



absence of




Perceived value of research. Based on:







on ‘change capability’ of

research - from the relevance of questions and

topic coverage

key emergent issues
Key emergent issues
  • is this ethics?
  • supporting decision-making and preparation
  • facilitating management of information disclosure
  • comparisons with framework of ethics from researcher perspective and ethics procedures
  • the passive construction of the process
  • requirements on funders
  • balancing ethics with the need for robust and rigorous information