What are ethics?
"Moral principles that control or influence a person's behaviour". (Oxford English Dictionary 2007)
The key ethical issue in interviewing is that the participants should not be harmed or damaged by the interview in any way. The following list (taken from Gray 2004) provides a few examples of ethical situations that could arise during your interview:
- The interviewee should be assured of their own confidentiality.
- If the interviewee becomes distressed, the interview should be abandoned.
- The interviewee has the right not to answer a particular question or to terminate the interview altogether.
- It is crucial that you obtain informed consent before commencing the interview.
- If the interviewee asks for practical guidance or help, you must refer them to an appropriate organisation or support centre. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into this type of discussion. If your interview concerns information of a particularly sensitive nature, it might be worth getting the details of relevant organisations beforehand, should you be asked.
Ethics are an integral part of your research and should be considered continuously throughout your project. In some situations it will be necessary for you to prove to an ethics board or committee that your research meets their ethical standards or criteria. It is also crucial that as a researcher you build a good reputation for high standards of research and this includes applying high ethical standards to your research at all times.
The following interactive table (adapted form Kvale 1996) contains some ethical considerations that you can relate to your research at the start of the interview process. Alternatively, the table is also available in MS Wordformat.