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Too close for comfort?: ethical considerations around safeguarding the emotional and mental wellbeing of researchers using auto/biographical approaches to investigate ‘sensitive’ topics

Sikes, Pat and Hall, Mel (2019) Too close for comfort?: ethical considerations around safeguarding the emotional and mental wellbeing of researchers using auto/biographical approaches to investigate ‘sensitive’ topics. International Journal of Research & Method in Education. ISSN 1743-727X

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Abstract

Auto/biographical narrative research that touches on ‘sensitive’ areas can elicit accounts that researchers may find distressing and threatening to their emotional and psychological health. In this paper we offer a ‘confessional tale’ through which we consider our experiences of investigating a sensitive and painful topic from the perspectives of the Principal Investigator who was intimately acquainted with the field of study because it affected her own family, and of the Research Associate who had no prior experience of the substantive area. We discuss how we dealt with our distress and pain and offer some novel suggestions that other educational researchers using qualitative approaches might adopt to help ensure that their research is ethical in that the wellbeing of researchers, as well as participants, is safeguarded.

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