Case Studies

Ethnography and Ethics: Securing Permission for Doctoral Research in and From the National Health Service

Focusing on ethnographic research on healthcare practices involving patients, the case discusses ethical issues requiring permission from the National Health Service in the UK. It first discusses how to provide an account of a research proposal that involves an inherently unpredictable process, in a format designed for carefully controlled biomedical research; second, how personal perspectives affect research; and third, how to work across the complicated organizational structures found in and around the National Health Service.

1: Why is it important to reflect on how the researcher’s personal perspectives may affect the research?

2: Why is it important to pay particular attention to ‘vulnerable people’ that may be affected by the research?


Institutional Ethics, Privacy, and Recruitment for a Multi-Site, Longitudinal Study on Social Housing

The case describes the complex process of obtaining all necessary institutional permission to engage in a longitudinal study on social housing and health, which was housed at two different research institutions, and involved data collection in four different municipalities in Canada. This case details the multiple steps that researchers must take to make sure that their data collection conforms with privacy laws and with institutional ethics protocols.

1: Why is it necessary to consider needs for ethical permissions from different organizations and institutions?

2: Why is it important to ensure that the research conforms with both institutional ethics protocols and privacy laws?


Deception and the Powerful Research Subject: Uncovering Neo-Liberal Corruption in Post-War Iraq

This case study examines a series of ethical dilemmas that emerged during a research project that explored the role of private companies in the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion and during the subsequent reconstruction of the Iraqi economy. The study was based upon data derived from participant observation and interviews with key protagonists at a series of corporate conferences in the Middle East. The case discusses deception in research generally, and how the ethical principles that we apply as professional researchers are not fit for purpose when it comes to researching relatively powerful participants.

1: What are the ethical dilemmas that might arise in gaining access to powerful respondents?

2: Why might it be difficult to apply standard rules guiding social research in studies of powerful actors?