Research conduct and ethics

You as a researcher

In Interpreting your findings we talked about the importance of keeping an open mind, impartiality and trying to avoid bias.  This is about your honesty and integrity: in interpreting your findings, in reporting your research results, in acknowledging the work of others. As a researcher it’s your responsibility to strive for the highest standards of rigour, integrity and professionalism – your research needs to be trusted and it’s up to you to do the best you can.

There is a great deal of further information available on research conduct and ethics (although much of it is aimed at professional research organisations) such as the UK Research Integrity Office Code of Practice


Care and respect for people involved in your research

Be aware that any research involving people creates a possibility that their interests or rights could be harmed or compromised. Qualitative research involving interviewing or observation, especially where audio or video records are kept, could have an effect on the confidentiality and privacy of others.

As we noted in Who should you talk to? If your sample groups are vulnerable or in need of additional protection (such as young people or adults with additional support needs) you need to take particular care in their safeguarding. Get expert advice if in doubt.

Think about any artistic material you may be using with your participants – is it of a sensitive nature?


What should you do?

At the very least, you need to protect the rights of your research participants, by making sure they are properly informed about the research, free to opt in or out at any time and are kept safe. Be clear about how you will store, use and dispose of audio or video material.

GDPR: the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) covers our rights to any personal data that is held about us (for example, the right to be informed about it or the right of access to it). For more guidance on GDPR see the Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

top tips

Before you go ahead with a research project, use a checklist to remind you about ethical considerations, for example

  • how are the rights of your participants protected?
  • are you going to store personal data?
  • are any potentially vulnerable people involved and what additional safeguards might be required?
  • is there sensitive material involved and how are you going to handle it?

More QUAL Essentials

playing music with unusually created instruments.
What is qual?
A group of people networking inside traditional building.
Research question
John Harris talking about recruiting a sample.
Who to talk to
Old sweeping brush propped against box of pamphlets.
Approach choices
Bottles of brightly coloured printing ink on a shelf.
Industrial workshop space.
Artist creating sculpture at workbench.
Christopher Glasgow talking about using research results.
Acting on Results