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Doing Research on Your Colleagues: Practical and Ethical Challenges in Being Closely Related to Your Research Subjects

Journal article
Authors Jonas Flodén
Published in SAGE Research Methods Cases
Issue 2019
Pages 1-10
ISSN 9781526477873
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Business Administration, Industrial and Financial Management & Logistics
Pages 1-10
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781526477873
Keywords research methods, case, ethics, colleagues
Subject categories Ethics, Business Administration, Pedagogy

Abstract

Being closely associated with your research subject brings methodological and ethical challenges. This case will discuss these challenges in the context of a study on how university teachers are affected by student feedback, where the researcher was a colleague of the teachers studied. The experiences from the study highlight the importance of being open toward the respondents about the study and letting participation be voluntary. A survey was chosen as this allowed the respondents to be anonymous, although preserving the respondents’ anonymity turned out to be challenging due to the extensive contextual knowledge the researcher held about the colleagues. The same contextual knowledge was also a strength in the analysis, although another challenge was to ensure that the study was not influenced by researcher bias based on the researcher’s preconceptions and personal experiences. Due to the close relationship between the researcher and respondents, it was identified as particularly important to build trust for respondents to volunteer and give truthful answers. Studying colleagues was deemed ethically justifiable, largely because the study was conducted openly and transparently, where respondents volunteered to participate. Furthermore, as the respondents were researchers, they were well aware of the consequences of participating in a research study. Similar challenges to those discussed in this case could also occur in other situations where the researcher is closely associated with the research subjects, such as students doing research on fellow students, or researchers studying other communities in which they are members.

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