Informed consent in qualitative/ethnographic research

Informed Consent in Qualitative and Ethnographic Research

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Researchers undertaking qualitative or ethnographic research in linguistics should obtain in advance the informed consent of persons being studied, providing information, owning or controlling access to language or other material being studied, or who are otherwise identified as having interests which might be impacted by the research.

It is understood that the degree and breadth of informed consent required will depend on the nature of the project and may be affected by requirements of other codes, laws, and ethics of the country or community in which the research is pursued. Further, it is understood that the informed consent process is dynamic and continuous; the process should be initiated in the project design and continue through implementation by way of dialogue and negotiation with those studied. Researchers are responsible for identifying and complying with the various informed consent codes, laws and regulations affecting their projects. Informed consent, for the purposes of this code, does not necessarily imply or require a particular written or signed form. It is the quality of the consent, not the format, that is relevant.

Researchers who have developed close and enduring relationships (i.e., covenantal relationships) with either individual persons providing information or with hosts must adhere to the obligations of openness and informed consent, while carefully and respectfully negotiating the limits of the relationship.

While linguistic researchers may gain personally from their work, they must not exploit individuals, groups, animals, or cultural or biological materials. They should recognize their debt to the societies in which they work and their obligation to reciprocate with people studied in appropriate ways.

This material is adapted from the AAA Code of Ethics, and linguistics researchers undertaking qualitative, long-term or ethnographic research should familiarise themselves with the larger context for ethical research that is discussed there.