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CAUT Bulletin Archives

March 2005

Walking the Tightrope: Ethicial Issues for Qualitative Researchers

Will C. van den Hoonaard, ed. Toronto, Buffalo & London: University of Toronto Press, 2002; 240 pp; ISBN: 0-8020-3683-X, hardcover $58 CA.; ISBN: 0-8020-8523-7, paper $27.95 CA.
In recent years social science research projects have been required to undergo increasingly restrictive ethics testing. But are formal guidelines on ethics in research congruent with the aims and methods of inductive and qualitative research? In this collection of essays, 16 Canadian, American and British researchers address this question in a variety of contexts, drawing on their experiences in settings ranging from high schools and maternity homes to the unfolding "virtual" terrain of cyberspace. This volume challenges the "biomedical" basis of policies on reviews of research ethics in the authors' respective countries. Guidelines were created, the authors argue, for quantitative work, and can actually impede or interrupt work that is not hypothesis-driven "hard science." Through examination of a number of topics - confidentiality, sensitive settings, questions of "voice," and the complex new challenges of internet research - the authors test the appropriateness of current protocols for ethical review. Scholars and practitioners in social work, education and sociology will find these essays useful and stimulating, as will teachers and students of qualitative research methods in fields as diverse as medicine, comparative literature and business studies.
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