top of page
  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Creative Research Methods and Ethics (Chapter 4)

Reflections on chapter 4 of Creative Research Methods – A Practical Guide by Helen Kara.

 This chapter focussed on ethics and how ‘ethical considerations need to permeate the whole of the research process’ (Page 61). Kara writes about how historically research has been seen as a ‘neutral, observational activity’ (page 63) but explains that more recently ‘researchers have decided to include a social justice element…. Seeing it as their responsibility to use research as a force for good’ (page 63). This is essentially my own attitude and approach to creative research and art making – social justice causes have always been the driving force behind my work and I don’t think I could produce work which wasn’t at least attempting to be “a force for good”.


Kara discusses research governance and the role of research ethics committees, ‘researchers and committee members hold a variety of ethical perspectives and standpoints. This means that, in practice, the ethics of some committees can conflict with the ethics of some researchers’ (page 65). I found this point about conflicting ethics particularly interesting because it raises questions about the gatekeepers of decision makings and the values of organisations vs. individuals. Kara advocates for a ‘dialogic rather than an adversarial approach to working with a research ethics committee’ (page 67), giving examples of researchers who realised that taking the standard approach to research ethics would actually be less ethical in certain contexts. Overall, I think this emphasises the need to be context driven in approach to research ethics, and above all, to be self-relective and flexible to respond to the specific needs or requirements of individual participants.


Kara focusses on the use of ‘direct quotes from people’s data’ and the ‘ethical difficulties’ (page 68) which may arise from it. This is relevant to my research project, since I am planning to work with participant’s stories through video interviews. She asks ‘How do you frame the quote? Do you introduce the person, give some of their key characteristics? Or would that lead your readers to respond in a particular way?’ (page 68). I foung this set of questions quite perplexing, since I am intending to introduce my participants with key characteristics, specifically the intersectional aspects of their identity (ie. country of birth, sexuality, gender, race, etc.). Kara raises an important point that the audience may make assumptions about my project participants based on these key characteristics which may lead to a prejudicial viewing of the documentary video / artworks. The only way I can think ot overcome this problem, since it is important to disclose this information at some point, is to lead with more human and relatable aspects of their personality during the narrative framing before introducing the colder facts about their identity.


Kara discusses the ethical issue of anonymity in research, which is a problem for my research. Since I want to create a documentary from video interviews as well as portraits in the likeness of my participants, anonymity is not a possibility. However, Kara also writes, ‘Authenticity implies recognition’ (page 69) which is especially pertinent to my ethical choice to recognise my participant’s name and identity to give value to their personal stories. I want to celebrate my participant’s diversity, strength and wisdom and for me, anonymity would strip them of the recognition which I believe they should deserve. The only solution to circumvent the problem of research ethics is to ensure that all my participants consent to their data being used and have the option to withdraw that consent at any time.


Finally, Kara writes about the ‘ethics in research using technology’ (page 72) and how ‘It is essential for researchers to be fully aware of the potential implications of the use of technology within any research they conduct’ (Page 73). This is relevant to consider since I am planning to use my iphone to record the video interviews, use whatsapp to co-ordinate communications with research participants and social media platforms to disseminate the findings and outcomes of my project. Kara writes, ‘For example, mobile phone devices, such as smart phones and tablets, are increasingly used to communicate with research participants and record audio and video data. However, these digital interactions can be traced by third parties, which may compromise participants anonymity (van Doorn 2013:393)’ (page 72). This was a concern which I hadn’t really considered so I am very glad she has raised it here. As part of the project proposal and consent form, I have made it explicitly clear the participant’s data will be used for public presentation and disseminated on social media – I hope in this way, they will not share anything with me which they do not feel comfortable being in the public domain.

6 views0 comments


bottom of page