Researcher Self-Care in Emotionally Demanding Research: A Proposed Conceptual Framework

Qual Health Res. 2018 Mar;28(4):648-658. doi: 10.1177/1049732317746377. Epub 2017 Dec 9.


Researchers are emotionally and psychologically affected by emotionally demanding research that demands a tremendous amount of mental, emotional, or physical energy and potentially affects or depletes the researcher's well-being. Little attention has been given to preparing doctoral students and novice researchers engaged in such studies. Four possible types of emotionally demanding research experiences are presented: sensitive issues, personal trauma previously experienced, experience of traumatic life events during research, and unexpected events that arise during research in what was previously not identified as a sensitive issue. The need for self-care is highly relevant to each type, despite their different impacts on researcher well-being. This conceptual article furthers conversation in the field about how researchers and educators can address the need for self-care to prepare novice researchers and proposes a conceptual framework for researcher self-care in emotionally demanding research, with an aim for future empirical study.

Keywords: United States of America; emotionally demanding research; personal trauma; prior trauma; qualitative research; retrospective qualitative analysis; sensitive topics.

MeSH terms

  • Compassion Fatigue / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Research Personnel / psychology*
  • Self Care*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology