Ethnographic Research With Adolescent Students: Situated Fieldwork Ethics and Ethical Principles Governing Human Research
Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 2009 December; 4(4): 27-38
This paper explores ethical dilemmas in situated fieldwork ethics concerning ethnographic studies of adolescent students. While consequentialist and deontological ethics form the basis of the ethical stances shared by ethnographers and research ethics committees, the interpretation of those principles may diverge in school-based ethnography with adolescent students because of the particular role of the adult ethnographer vis-à-vis developmentally immature adolescents not held legally responsible for many of their actions. School ethnographers attempt to build trust with adolescent participants in order to learn about their hidden cultural worlds, which may involve activities that are very harmful to the youths involved. They face many difficult and sometimes unexpected choices, including whether to intervene and how to represent events and adolescents in published findings. Scenarios with examples drawn from research conducted in public high schools are used to illustrate and explicate dilemmas in formal research and latent insider/outsider roles and relations involving harmful adolescent behaviors, advocacy, and psychological trauma. Also examined are analytical procedures used to construct interpretations leading to representations of research participants in the resulting publication.
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