Ethical Issues in the Conduct of In-Depth Interviews

By:
Dr Peter Allmark,
Angela Tod
To add a paper, Login.

Social scientists often use in-depth interviews when undertaking qualitative research studies. Increasingly, they are now required to subject their research proposals to ethical review. The literature suggests that there are a number of ethical issues that arise in conducting in-depth interviews. Some of these are generic (such as consent); some are more specific (such as role conflict as when an interviewer is also, say, a social worker). Even the generic issues tend to eventuate in particular ways when applied to in-depth interviews.

This workshop has two main purposes.

1) For participants to raise ethical issues that either they or their colleagues have encountered when undertaking research using in-depth interviews.

2) To discuss different strategies for tackling these ethical issues; to discuss also the scientific implications of the different strategies.

The workshop will begin with a short presentation based on a review of relevant literature performed by the facilitators. This will focus on a number of key ethical issues that have been identified. It will also briefly discuss the difference between empirical and philosophical questions. The participants will then be encouraged to discuss the issues: have they arisen in their own or colleagues’ practice; what strategies did they use; what strategies seem appropriate; how would the different strategies impact on the science of the study (such as the data collection)?

In the feedback from the smaller discussion, the facilitators will attempt to highlight areas of agreement between participants and areas of continuing controversy. They will draw on available guidelines to see how far these coincide with the views of participants and how helpful they are. Finally, they will try to set out areas for continuing philosophical and empirical research.


Keywords: Interviews, Ethics, Qualitative Research, Social Science
Stream: Research Methodologies, Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr Peter Allmark

Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sheffield
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK

I am a nurse academic with a primary interest in ethics. I have published extensively in this field and have presented at numerous conferences worldwide. I am a member of three research ethics committees. I have worked on two empirical projects (funded by the EU and the MRC) examining the validity of consent given by parents to neonatal trials. The most recent of these involved my interviewing parents who had given consent or refusal to a complex randomised trial in the first few hours after the birth of their dangerously ill baby. Often their baby had died or was severely handicapped. It was following these interviews that I became concerned with the ethics of in-depth interviews. In discussions with other social scientific researchers, I found they shared my concerns and others of their own. It is this topic we wish to explore in our presentation.

Angela Tod

Lecturer, School of nursing and midwifery, University of Sheffield
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK

I am a lecturer in nursing with extensive experience of health services research specialising in qualitative methods. My qualitative research has been in three substantive health practice-related areas. These are: patient experience of illness; cardiac care; and new clinical roles. I’ve led the design and been an active member of the research team on a number of multi-method research projects funded by external agencies. I have national and international research profile evidenced by a range of conference presentations and peer review publications. Following many years of conducting patient interviews in sensitive areas e.g. diagnosis of lung cancer, the prevalence of ethical issues has become of increasing concern to me. It seems timely to address these and seek strategies to tackle them. Our workshop provides an opportunity to share findings of some of our work in this area so far and to take this forward to the next stage.

Ref: I06P0094