Ethical considerations associated with Qualitative Research methods

25 May 2022
Last updated:
21 October 2022

Ethics Checklist

When designing qualitative research, consider the steps in the checklist below. 

1. Think

Step back from the project, think about the work you are about to do and the ethical issues that could occur at all stages of the research. Think about the specific ethical considerations around your chosen methodology, and the impact these have on data collection, analysis and your overall outcomes. 

Try and think about any risks and take steps to prevent them. Both by using the advice provided in our guidance and by seeking further support if necessary.

2. Avoid harm

Participants should not suffer any harm as a result of taking part in your research. You should identify any potential risks for both participants and researchers.  

  • Have you got the necessary support in place for both participants and researchers in place should they need it?  

Consider in particular the UK Statistics Authority’s general ethical principles below:

3. Methods and Quality

  • Have you considered the limitations of the chosen method and the impact this may have on data collection, analysis and overall results?  
  • Have you considered the specific ethical issues in relation to your method?  
  • Is your method appropriate for your participant group to partake? 
  • Are the researchers skilled in the chosen methodology?  
  • Do you have a clearly defined research question? Is your method best suited to answer your this?   
  • Is your data collection method accessible to your participant group and reflect individual needs to partake? 
  • Have you considered your own bias and how your own opinions and experiences may influence every stage of the research project? 

You should avoid the use of leading questions in your data collection. Leading questions may bias participant responses and affect your overall research outcomes. Using a topic guide to help facilitate discussions may help reduce the amount or likelihood of leading questions. 

4. Public Good

  • Think about what you intend to do with the findings, do the benefits outweigh the risks?  
  • Have you clearly documented the benefits of conducting your research? 
  • Can you ensure your findings will reflect the experiences and opinions of the participant group?  
  • Have you done the necessary literature reviews to ensure your research has identified current gaps or is contributing to already existing information

5. Transparency

  • Have you clearly communicated how you will collect, store, analyse use and share the data? 
  • Can you clearly outline what taking part in the research looks like? 
  • Have you considered how your audience will best engage with your recommendations and outputs?

6. Confidentiality and Data Security

  • Have you considered how you will maintain confidentiality and anonymity of participant data at all times? 
  • Are you able to ensure the anonymity of individuals in your findings, even when personal identifiers have been removed? 
  • The location of where the data collection is taking place may have an impact on how comfortable both the researcher and the participant feels. This in turn can have an effect on the quality of information collected. You should also consider how private the location is. Is there anybody else present? Is there a chance the discussion could be overheard?  
  • There may be situations when you have to break confidentiality if a participant discloses information that makes you concerned for their safety, or the safety of someone else. Do you have the necessary process in place to break confidentiality when needed? Are you aware of the relevant safeguarding authorities to contact?

7. Legal Compliance

  • Have you considered your legal obligations in collecting and storing personal information? 
  • Do you have the appropriate safeguarding procedures in place should a participant tell you something that you need to report?  
  • Are you aware of how much information you need to collect in order to answer your question?