Ethical components of researcher researched relationships in qualitative interviewing

Qual Health Res. 2007 Oct;17(8):1149-59. doi: 10.1177/1049732307308305.


Qualitative interviews are widely and often uncritically adopted for health care research, with little justification of therapeutic value. Although they might provide valuable insights into the perspectives of participants, they represent only a version of reality, rather than "truth" per se. Qualitative research is vulnerable to bias through the attitudes and qualities of the researcher, social desirability factors, and conditions of worth. Exploitation, through role confusion, therapeutic misconception, and misrepresentation are particular risks for health care-related research. Ethical codes, biomedical principles and care philosophies provide little contextual guidance on the moral dilemmas encountered in the practice of research. If nurse researchers are to navigate the moral complexities of research relationships, then sensitivity to risk to participants must be of continual concern, from conception of the study to the reporting of outcomes. Examination of the self through critical reflection and supervision are therefore necessary components of ethical research.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Research*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic*
  • Nursing Research / ethics
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Researcher-Subject Relations / ethics
  • Social Desirability