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Reflexivity and ethics

This section is designed to support consideration of reflexivity and ethics in the research process. Key forms are provided to include with the Research Proposal and aid in successful ethical review.

Core reading provided in the module pack:
Ahern (cited in Robson 2002: 173) on reflexivity
Denscombe (2007: 139-151) on data protection and ethics
A reflexivity checklist derived from Ahern's work is outlined. It is designed to help identify and acknowledge areas of potential researcher bias including: personal issues; value systems; role conflicts and gatekeepers' interests. Martyn Denscombe identifies a number of ethical issues to consider including: protection of participants; avoiding misrepresentation; informed consent; privacy and legislation.

Next steps
Your proposal will normally need to demonstrate consideration of reflexivity and ethics. This is useful even if the proposed research does not involve primary research with people as most research on career or work has implications for others in some way shape or form. If the research does involve direct work with people, it will usually be necessary to gain their informed consent to the process or explain why this may be inappropriate. With regard to reflexivity, the important issue is often not to eliminate bias or subjectivity but to acknowledge these issues and their influence on the research process (for good or ill). It is important to acknowledge in what ways we, as researchers, are positioned or situated in relation to the intended research; for example, the role of advisor or teacher in relation to career development or learning from work. This can provide evidence of rigour in social research.

Key forms
You will need to complete the CLL Research Ethics Approval Form(Word Document). If your research involves direct contact with other people as participants then you will also need to provide an example Information and Consent Form(Word Document). You must submit both forms along with your Research Proposal.

Optional extension activities
Chapter 3 in Bell (2010).
Chapter 3 in Costley, Elliott and Gibbs (2010) with a focus on ethics in work-based research.