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WASP (write a scientific paper): The ongoing process of ethical decision-making in qualitative research: Ethical principles and their application to the research process

Lorleen Farrugia
Early Human Development 2019 April 5
The nature of qualitative research is fundamentally different from quantitative research. In depth understanding and exploration of specific phenomena or their significance usually involve a data collection process with a select few participants with whom the researcher interacts over an extended period of time. The participants are not anonymous to the researcher and they also reveal personal information. Research participants' rights need to be protected, even more so in this type of qualitative work. This chapter discusses how ethical decision-making needs to be ongoing during the research process by applying the principles of respect for persons, beneficence and justice. Respecting research participants, involves addressing issues related to informed consent, anonymity and confidentiality while also reflecting on the researcher's impact on the participant and the research context while the research is carried out and also when the research is disseminated. The second principle of beneficence calls for the researcher to ascertain that participants' safety is given utmost importance. Finally, justice refers to ensuring that the burdens and benefits of research are shared fairly without any form of discrimination or manipulation. These principles offer the researcher flexible tools to reflect on ethical decisions as they arise throughout the research process.


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