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Mertens, D. M. (2018). Ethics of Qualitative Data Collection. In U. Flick (Ed.), The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection (pp. 33–48). SAGE Publications Ltd.


Qualitative data collection brings complex ethical issues to the surface because of the personal nature of this activity when qualitative methods are used. As we have all heard many times, ‘the researcher is the in- strument', thus qualitative research includes an integral aspect of the need to be responsive to interperson- al relations that may not be as salient in quantitative research. While ethical review boards have criteria for defining ethical research, the approval process for research through this process is sometimes interpreted to be a hurdle that has to be jumped over and then the study can begin. In qualitative research, it is critically important that researchers are aware of how they are conducting themselves in an ethical manner throughout the course of the research, especially during the data collection. Qualitative data collection involves working closely with participants and this brings with it the complexities associated with cultural norms, beliefs, val- ues, and behaviors. This complexity is of special import when collecting qualitative data in populations that are unaccustomed to participating in research, unaware that they are participating in research, or not part of the research power structure, so that the rights of such individuals are respected. In this chapter, I examine the ethics of qualitative data collection from multiple perspectives: philosophical, institutional, and method- ological. I explore tensions that arise in the territory that covers responsiveness to ethical regulations and the practical challenges that arise in the field, as well as issues related to the purpose of the qualitative research as an ethical consideration.