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Reflexivity and ethics

This section is designed to support consideration of reflexivity and ethics in the research process.

Core reading provided in the module pack

Ahern (cited in Robson 2002: 173) on reflexivity, and 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). This can provide evidence of rigour in social studies.

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.