Qualitative field research and ethics
Forum Question: Select from one of the two sets of questions (Paradigms and the Belmont Report)
Identify a sociological topic of interest to you. Access the “Common Paradigms” link.
Discuss how three (3) of the specific qualitative research paradigms could be used to study this topic.
Are some paradigms better suited for certain topics?
Which paradigm(s) raise the biggest ethical concerns?
2) Belmont Report – Access the Belmont link in the course material
Explain what led to the creation of the Belmont Report?
What are the ethical considerations in research?
Explain the three principles of ethics?
The Belmont Report was written by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. The Commission, created as a result of the National Research Act of 1974, was charged with identifying the basic ethical principles that should underlie the conduct of biomedical and behavioral research involving human subjects and developing guidelines to assure that such research is conducted in accordance with those principles. Informed by monthly discussions that spanned nearly four years and an intensive four days of deliberation in 1976, the Commission published the Belmont Report, which identifies basic ethical principles and guidelines that address ethical issues arising from the conduct of research with human subjects.
Read the full text of the Belmont Report
This video describes the basic ethical principles that underlie research involving human subjects and demonstrates how they can help resolve ethical conflicts in research
This collection of videos includes interviews with members and staff of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research from the 25th anniversary of publication in 2004
Explore a compilation of related reports published by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research between 1974 and 1978
Protecting Human Subjects in ResearchContent created by Office for Human Research Protections
Content last reviewed on March 15, 2016
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
Qualitative and quantitative approaches are rooted in philosophical traditions with different epistemological and ontological assumptions.
Epistemology – is the theory of knowledge and the assumptions and beliefs that we have about the nature of knowledge. How do we know the world? What is the relationship between the inquirer and the known?
Ontology – concerns the philosphy of existence and the assumptions and beliefs that we hold about the nature of being and existence.
Paradigms – models or frameworks that are derived from a worldview or belief system about the nature of knowledge and existence. Paradigms are shared by a scientific community and guide how a community of researchers act with regard to inquiry.
Methodology – how we gain knowledge about the world or “an articulated, theoretically informed approach to the production of data” (Ellen, 1984, p. 9).
Five Common Paradigms
Most qualitative research emerges from the ‘interpretivist’ paradigm.
While we describe the epistemological, ontological and methodological underpinnings of a variety of paradigms, one need not identify with a paradigm when doing qualitative research.
As Bryman (2004) articulates (see chapter 1) the tension between interpretivist and positivist approaches in a political debate about the nature, importance and capacity of different research methods.
Up until the 1960s, the ‘scientific method’ was the predominant approach to social inquiry, with little attention given to qualitative approaches such as participant observation.
In response to this, a number of scholars across disciplines began to argue against the centrality of the scientific method. They argued that quantitiative approaches might be appropriate for studying the physical and natural world, they were not appropriate when the object of study was people. Qualitative approaches were better suited to social inquiry.
To understand the tension between paradigms one must understand that this tension – the either or approach that emerged in the context of a debate about the capacity and importance of qualitative methods.
Byrman and others, most recently Morgan (2007), argue for a more pragmatic approach; one that is disentrangled from the entrapments of this paradigm debate, one that recognizes the ties or themes that connect quantitative and qualitative research, and one that sees the benefits of blending quantitative and qualitative methods.
Bryman, A. (2004). Quantity and Quality in Social Research. London: Routledge. First published in 1988.
Ellen, RF. (1984). Introduction. In RF Ellen (Ed.), Ethnographic Research: A guide to general conduct (research methods in social anthropology) (pp. 1-12). London: Academic Press.
Morgan, DL. (2007). Paradigms lost and paradigms regained. Journal of Mixed Methods Research. 1(1), 48-76.
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Citation: Cohen D, Crabtree B. “Qualitative Research Guidelines Project.” July 2006. http://www.qualres.org/HomePhil-3514.html