Purpose Built Ethical Considerations for Narrative Research

Broad consent or process consent but not informed consent

Authored by: Martin Tolich

The Routledge International Handbook on Narrative and Life History

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138784291
eBook ISBN: 9781315768199
Adobe ISBN: 9781317665717


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Ethics creep (Haggerty, 2004), moral panic (Van den Hoonaard, 2001), travellers and trolls (Pritchard, 2002) are common stories social scientists use to characterise their uneasy relationships with the formal ethics review that are mandatory in many countries. Although named differently – institutional review boards (IRBs) in the USA, research ethics boards in Canada, Human Ethics Review Committees in Australia – this chapter uses the generic term IRB yet it acknowledges that ethics review is not mandatory in each country, and some narrative researchers, especially autoethnographers, deem themselves exempt from ethics review. Israel and Hay (2006) story the relationship as “social scientists are angry and frustrated, their work is being constrained and distorted by regulators of ethical practice who do not necessarily understand social science research.” While mindful of these critiques, my contribution to this literature on social science ethics has focused less on outward critiques but inward toward the ethical considerations of qualitative research itself. Additionally, for most of the past fifteen years I have served on IRBs mostly as chairperson, and recently I established a not for profit company operating a non-institutional IRB. The New Zealand Ethics Committee review applications gratis, from researchers in local and central governments, NGOs and community researchers routinely disenfranchised from formal ethical review.

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