Personnel/ Personal Ethics in Qualitative Methods [Jim]

Personnel Ethics

Ethics is essential in qualitative methods. Ethics with regard to one’s subjects of investigation is the most commonly referenced form of ethics in our work and the one that we will primarily being discussing. But it is not the only type of ethics. To differentiate the two types of ethics, I will be bending the meaning of two very similar sounding words: personnel and personal.

This is not to be confused with the difference between personal ethics and professional ethics? That is typically the root dilemma within ethics and why it needs to be discussed. Both of these types of ethics are for the most part, dealt with within what I am calling personnel ethics.

Gabriel started our discussion of personnel ethics by mentioning Angrosino’s points on the subject:

Ethnographers must respect the people they study and protect their dignity.
While they might owe something to those funding their research, the academic community, and the general public, the interest of those being studied comes first!
Informed Consent-process of giving human subjects enough information to make the decision if they would like to participate.
Confidentiality-principle of protecting the privacy of individual participants.

Anna also got involved in ethics on her own via the AAA website on ethics:
Case 3: Witness to Murder
In this case Thompson witnessed a murder while conducting fieldwork, in South East Asia, of daily events that took regular place at the plaza. The events of the murder were recorded in her field notes. Although she did witness the murder and recorded the events of the murder she decided to hide the notebook containing her field notes and the description of the events when quested by the police. In addition, she denied having any knowledge of the events of that evening. The police accepted her statements and did not search for her field notes.
[Anna]When I read this case the first thing that came to my mind was, “How could she do that?” I understand that she wanted to protect the research that she had been diligently working on. However, without the aide of her field notes, the police may not find out who committed the murder. As a result, she helped a criminal return to and remain on the streets and lied to protect her research and the criminal. In my opinion, no valid research is worth this type of ethics sacrifice. After all, while conducting research you need to maintain your values, ethics and morals.

For everyone else, I encourage you to go to the Page on Ethics I developed here and continue the discussion.

Personal Ethics with regard to one’s self while engaged in qualitative methods
I mentioned Personnel Ethics with regard to one’s subjects of investigation as the first type of ethics in qualitative methods. The second type is what I will call Personal Ethics with regard to one’s self while engaged in qualitative methods.

Qualitative approaches ultimately rely upon the ability of the researcher (not SPSS; not black and white scientific methods) to interpret the data. This dependence on the researcher’s mind and the choices that the researcher makes in response to observed data presents opportunities for great harm through carelessness.

I remind you of Kaplan’s point [via Valerie] on the Myth of Methodology:

This is the idea that the most serious of difficulties facing behavioral science are methodological and that if we use the right methodology we can overcome those difficulties. This is the overemphasis of what methodology can actually achieve.

So how do we do this?  How do we improve ourselves?  How do we avoid being lazy when there is a great deal of data to analyze and very little time to do it?  I do not have the answers.  I am struggling with these issues every day like everyone else.  Maybe we can come up with a strategy to address these issues as a group.  Let’s see what we can do while discussing ethics here.