The Ethics of Interviewing for Discourse Analysis: Responses to Martyn Hammersley

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    SAGE Publishing

    By Stephanie Taylor and Robin Smith

    In ‘On the ethics of interviewing for discourse analysis’, Martyn Hammersley (2013) sets out an ethical dilemma around informed consent for research interviews which is, he suggests, especially pertinent to discourse analytic research.

    Hammersley’s article has divided opinion and triggered responses from Stephanie Taylor and Robin Smith, who challenge Hammersley’s definitions of discourse analysis.

    Click here to read Hammersley’s original article and the responses.

    Click here to visit the Qualitative Research homepage.


    Mine is more of an inquiry than a contribution. In my first qualitative interview, I did explain as carefully as possible what the research was about. I wanted to find out the aspects of English language the students most preferred and why. From the interview transcripts, I realised that the participants had provided information about a preference which was not in their English language curriculum. If I use that information in the research or subsequent research, will I be untrue to my participants? Are there interpretative boundaries I cannot cross because such venture might contradict the agreed use of the data? Is it possible to maintain fidelity to the interviewee in the process of analysis? Isn’t it possible that the process of analysis itself makes any such alleged fidelity pretentious and false? I’m new to qualitative research and need to navigate carefully the ethical question. Therefore, my queries are not rhetorical.


    In my view discourse is like an interview. As long as there are no sensitive issue, abusive dialogue/statements, too personnl discourse, this method does not involve such serious ethical issue. ofcourse in all research a respondent is free enough to discontinue from the study, and also has the right to make the researcher completely forego his/her role as a sample.

    In social and more so in any form of verbal/oral data collection method ethical issues are not so serious like drug research. yes, issues with infertility, sex, drug abuse, deliquency etc are sensitive population and issues. Again here also ethicaly sound guidelines are drawn before itslef.

    In discoursess it may become little stressfull, if the path of discussion is not conviencing to researcher and more so to participant, when the concious scholar can just give a break, or deviate the talk and have some humour to mke it light.


    Ethics is important but need not have to be threat to any study



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