Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)
Is medical ethics really in the best interest of the patient?
Programme : Ethical review boards: are they important ethical safeguards or over-burdensome and unnecessary bureaucracy? : Abstract of presentation

Rethinking ethical boundaries of grounded theory approach


Barbara Potrata
University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom


Background: Grounded theory approach is widely used in applied qualitative research but the ethical problems arise when this approach steers the research into the direction which has not been approved by the ethics committees.

Methology: Literature review on ethical issues in regards to grounded theory approach, and a composite from studies using grounded theory in patients with life-threatening diseases with bleak prognosis.

Findings: Here I present existing evidence on distress experienced by the participants during the interviewing, and practical considerations in digressing from ethically approved semi-structured interview schedule. I also discuss other issues related to adapting research design to the newly emerging theory (e.g. change of research methods, re-interviewing, number of interviewees etc.)

Conclusions: Grounded theory has proven to be a fruitful approach, especially in studying little known and/ or highly sensitive issues in patients. However, when certain areas are under-explored the researchers often cannot predict the direction of research when applying for the ethical permission. Grounded theory approach is therefore frequently considerably limited by what has been approved by the ethics committees. To take a full advantage of the grounded theory, the debate is needed to what extent the researchers, provided they are both highly qualified and experienced, are allowed to push the boundary of ethical research permission. Failing to do so will negatively impact on mostly the patients who appear to benefit most from this approach and whose voices will remain unheard.

Email: b.potrata@leeds.ac.uk


This conference is arranged by Cesagen at the universities of Lancaster and Cardiff and the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics at Uppsala University.
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