A Case of Collaboration, Part 3

Categories: Data Collection, Focus Series, Qualitative, Research Ethics, Tools and Resources

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In this focus on collaboration we will look at the various ways researchers and academic writers work together. This is part of a series of posts based on SAGE Research Cases.  

The selected cases are open access until the end of January, 2019.  If the links have expired you can access them through with a 30-day free trial of the Cases platform, using your academic email address. 

Sometimes we conduct research in community sites or organizations. We depend on key individuals, sometimes called gatekeepers, to allow us the access to participants, documents, or other types of information in order to collect data. When the inquiry delves into sensitive topics, the relationship with these key individuals is even more essential to research success. This case describes the importance of trust. While the case describes a qualitative study, it will be of interest to any field researcher who depends on insiders to research people in organizations or communities.

Curtis, C.(2018). Giving voice versus gate-keeping: Ethics and complexities in qualitative research collaborationsSAGE Research Methods Cases .doi:10.4135/9781526429230


This case study discusses the potential for conflict within qualitative research collaborations. It is particularly focused on collaborations with community organizations, and on the ethical principle of respect— that individuals should be treated as autonomous agents, yet those with diminished autonomy must be protected. Much of the author’s research has been on sensitive topics, including self-harm and sexual abuse. Conducting research with young women who have experienced these entails a number of challenges, including access, recruitment, the development of trust, and managing potential vulnerability. However, participants frequently report benefits from participation, even when distress is experienced. Although collaborating with service providers with which potential research participants engage may reduce some of these difficulties, other tensions frequently arise. Furthermore, research on sensitive topics and/or with vulnerable people poses specific ethical difficulties. These include tensions between researcher and participant needs, such as conveying the possibility of distress while not discouraging participation. Service providers are often aware of some of these possible issues, and may take on a gate-keeper role through a desire to protect their clients. In so doing, the autonomy of potential participants is diminished. Thus, the development of trust on the part of both collaborating services and participants is key to the opening of research spaces. The challenges of complex and competing needs in research collaborations will be examined
through the use of a specific research example.

Learn more about collaboration on SAGE MethodSpace:

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