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Sensitive Educational Research

Sensitive research is which potentially poses a substansial threat to those who are involved
or have been involved in it. (Lee 1999 :4) or when those studied view the researchas
somehow undesirable (Van Meter 2000).
Sources of sensitvity :

Consequences for participants

Consequences for other people
Contents, e.g taboo or emotionally charged areas of the study (Farberow 193), e.g
criminality, deviance, sex, race, violence, politics, )
Contextual and situational circumstance
Intrusion into private spheres and deep personal experience. E.g sexual behaviour,
religious practices, death, even income and age
Potential sanction
Impingement on political alignments
Cultural and cross cultural factors and inhibitions
Fear of scrutiny and exposure
Threat to the researcher and to the family and members and associates of those studies
Methodologies and conduct e.g how junior reserchers conduct research on powerful
people, when men interview women.

Strategies of sampling and access :

List sampling
Professional informants

Four step gainning access (Walford, 2001: 347 )

Approach e.g gainning entry, perhaps through a mutual friend or colleague a link
Interest e.g using a telephone call to arrange an initial interview/ participants interest
Desire e.g overcoming objections and stressing the benefit of the research.
Sale e.g where the participants agree to the research.

Gatekeepers play a signicant role in research, particularly in ethnographic research.

Gatekeepers control access and re-access
Gatekeepers may wish to avoid, contain, spread or control risk and therefore may bar
access or make access conditional.

Problems of sensitive educational research:

gaining access to schools and teachers
gaining permission to conduct the research
resentment by principals
people vetting which data could be used
nding enough willing participants for the sample.
Ethical Issues in Sensitive Research

A set of prescriptive moral rules and behavioural codes relating to what is right or
wrong, or appropriate and inappropriate.
Research Ethics: moral principles guiding research;
Ethical Principles: concerned with rights, dignity & safety of researched;
Ethical issue are thrown into sharp relief in sensitive education research.
(Lee, 1993) overcome problems of reactivity, research influences behavior of the

Protection of individuals versus the publics right to know.

Covert or overt research, deception and betrayal.
Breaching informed consent.

Researching powerful people

Powerful people, those in key positions, or elite institutions.

Senior teacher
Senior civil servant
Decision makers
School governor
Who should conduct interview with powerful people ?