Communication Issues

Recruitment. Research might involve various intermediaries (e.g., community gatekeepers, or in the case of “snowball sampling,” other subjects), and technologies (e.g., random-digit dialing). How do various approaches satisfy requirements of ethics and science?

Informed Consent. Research might involve communication processes between the researcher and participant, organization or other entity; study of these processes may include variables such as modes of communication, conditions surrounding the research, cultural and perceptual factors, and their influence on ethics-related variables such as comprehension, trust, decision making, competence, and autonomy of participants.

Deception. Research might involve the study of concealment, mental reservations, intended deception, consent to deceive, placebos, perceived deception, self-deception, use of devices intended to distract participants from the main purpose of an activity in order to evoke spontaneous behavior, and desensitizing and debriefing (de-hoaxing). Many questions may be asked about the effects of deception, debriefing and desensitization, participants’ perception and evaluation of deceptive methods, and the efficacy of alternatives to deception.

Relationships as a Source of Data. Qualitative research typically involves getting to know persons and then reporting on some aspect of their lives. Research might focus on the nature of the relationship as perceived by the researcher, participant, gatekeepers or others; how this is related to the way the research problem is defined; how subjects are approached and give consent; how the data are collected and organized; how participants may be respected or wronged; what steps can be taken to de-identify participants; and ways to improve the accuracy of the observations and interpretations.

Community consultation and outreach. Before, during and after the research, investigators may become involved with subjects’ community to educate the researcher about what research approaches are acceptable to the community, to educate or thank subjects and their families, or to provide opportunities for mutual understanding. What are effective ways to fulfill these functions? What are the effects on validity, feasibility of future research at that site, the feelings of subjects and members of the community, and the way the findings are applied?

Language and meaning. How can differences in language and meaning within and between cultures be bridged, yielding ethical procedures, and valid and comparable results? Traditional practice holds that everyone should be told the same thing, but more recent study suggests that meaning, not words, should be held constant. What are effective ways to ask and answer questions about meaning?

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