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ResourcesHuman Research EthicsConfidentiality in participatory research: Challenges from one study (Papers: Elmira Petrova et al 2014)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Confidentiality in participatory research: Challenges from one study (Papers: Elmira Petrova et al 2014)


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Aim: This article presents key ethical challenges that were encountered when conducting a participatory qualitative research project with a very specific, small group of nurses, in this case with practice development nurses in Malta.

Background: With the small number of nurses employed in practice development roles in Malta, there are numerous difficulties of maintaining confidentiality. Poorly constructed interventions by the researcher could have resulted in detrimental effects to research participants and the overall trustworthiness of the research. Generally, ethical guidelines for research exist to reinforce validity of research; however, there is not an established consensus on how these strategies can be utilised in some types of qualitative field work.

Research design: The researcher used an exploratory case study methodology. The sample consisted of 10 participants who were interviewed twice using face-to-face interviews, over a period of 2 months.

Ethical considerations: The study was ethically reviewed by the University Research Ethics Committee and the Faculty Research Ethics Committee, University of Malta. The participants referred to in this article have been given adequate information about the study and their consent has been obtained.

Discussion: Numerous strategies for ensuring confidentiality during recruitment of the participants, during data collection, during transcription and data analysis and during dissemination of research results assisted the researcher in responding to potential and actual ethical issues.

Conclusion: This article emphasises the main strategies that can be used to respond to ethical challenges when researching with a small easily identifiable group. The learning discussed here may be relevant to or even transferable to other similar research studies or research contexts. These methods fostered a greater credibility throughout the research process and predisposed the participants to greater trust, and thus, they disclosed their experiences and speak more freely, thus enhancing the quality of the study.

Keywords: Confidentiality consent ethics participatory research qualitative research

Petrova E, Dewing J, Camilleri M (2014) Confidentiality in participatory research: Challenges from one study. Nursing Ethics doi: 10.1177/0969733014564909

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