New guidance published on how to best support qualitative researchers


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New guidelines developed by a group of twelve researchers from different disciplines and institutions are published today in International Journal of Qualitative Methods. It offers diverse experiences of the co-authors about their research in sensitive, challenging and difficult areas and proposes practical principles to overcome problems to ensure the highest safety and well-being of qualitative researchers in this field.

Lead author Sergio A Silverio from King’s College London says: “As qualitative researchers, we have often been encouraged to think about reducing harm to participants throughout the research process, but little has been written about how researchers are best protected and supported be able. This guide will change that.”

The authors distinguish between sensitive, challenging, and difficult issues, distinguishing the latter from the former two. Sensitive topics, according to the authors, are those that deal with a participant’s “acutely personal” experiences, while challenging topics focus on problems between groups or within systems. Difficult topics, however, are those that the public at large would find taboo, frightening, or morally reprehensible.

Drawing on their personal experiences of conducting research in this area, the authors cover a range of topics including, but not limited to, sexuality, mental health, abuse, bereavement and palliative care.

The article concludes with eight points of practical principles on how best to support qualitative researchers at all levels of experience as they enter the field to explore sensitive, challenging, or difficult topics. Training and appropriate initiation into the research is recommended first, followed by appropriate planning of data collection, use of a ‘buddy system’, and ensuring effective debriefing by the study team.

The authors also encourage researchers to use reflective diaries or journals and to engage in individual and team supervision throughout the research process. Finally, they recommend the prudent use of donations and charitable support, as well as formal psychological support if deemed necessary.

‘This guide provides practical advice for research students and researchers, and also for supervisors and research leaders, on how to prepare and support their staff and students working in these fields,’ says Professor Jane Sandall

This guide is recommended as an accompanying guide for research ethics committees and institutional review boards; However, the authors advise treating it as a “living” document that needs updating as the field of qualitative research continues to grow.

Health surveillance for children with Down syndrome is discussed

More information:
Sergio A. Silverio et al, Sensitive, Challenging, and Difficult Topics: Experiences and Practical Considerations for Qualitative Researchers, International Journal of Qualitative Methods (2022). DOI: 10.1177/16094069221124739

Provided by King’s College London

Citation: New guidance published on how best to support qualitative researchers (2022 September 9), retrieved September 9, 2022 from

This document is protected by copyright. Except for fair trade for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is for informational purposes only.

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