Frank Rennie, Keith Smyth, Gareth davies, Matt Sillars and Amy Woolvin

Chapter 4 – Ethical considerations

All the content relating to the chapter above is below


The main objective of this chapter is to outline the purpose of research ethics, and how ethical considerations can and should influence how you plan and conduct your research.

Key Points

When the subject of ethical behaviour with respect to research is raised, there are only two certainties. The first is that there are ethical considerations embedded in all research projects. The ethical issues may be very different, and some areas of research require higher levels of ethical assurances than others, but the requirement to observe appropriate ethical behaviour is incumbent on all researchers. It is worth noting here that ethical behaviour is socially constructed, and is not absolute, so it will vary with time and context; e.g. when working with children or vulnerable adults.

The second certainty is that the onus is upon the researcher(s) to demonstrate that their conduct is within the law and will not cause harm to anyone as a result of any actions pertaining to the research. The cardinal principle to be applied is to ensure respect for human dignity.

This one-hour performance offers an opportunity to experience the use of Forum Theatre as a means of reflecting practically on ethical challenges in participatory research. The team depicted a scenario based on a real ethical problem faced in community-university partnership research. Members of the ‘audience’ were invited to change places with some of the ‘actors’ to explore different possibilities for action. Forum Theatre is an enjoyable, creatively challenging way to explore complexity and difficulty, used internationally to explore obstacles, dilemmas and oppressions within many different communities/groupings. It is based on ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ developed by Brazilian director, Augusto Boal (1931-2009), which challenges people to become powerful and active participants in relation to issues that matter to them.

1 hour long

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