Feminist Research Ethics

Feminist Research Ethics

13. Summary

Research ethics refers to principles and guidelines for the conduct of research to avoid harm to participants and ensure the integrity of the research process.

Basic ethical principles in conducting research with humans include:

  • Respect.
  • Concern for welfare.
  • Justice.

These principles are applied through strategies such as:

  • Obtaining the voluntary and informed consent of participants.
  • Protecting the confidentiality and privacy of research participants, including through protecting anonymity, in the conduct of research, management of data and analysis and publication of results.

Different countries and institutions may have their own ethics policies. It is important to become familiar with the ethics policies that apply to the context you work in, and understand the ethics requirements you may need to fulfil under those policies.

Feminist research includes further ethical principles that address:

  • The exercise of power in research.
  • The nature of relationships between different parties in the research process.
  • The context in which research is conducted and knowledge is produced.

Key principles of feminist research include:

Reflexivity: critical awareness of your own positionality and the way in which it shapes on your worldview, your research agenda and approach, and your relationships with your research participants and field; an ability to evaluate how your research may need to be changed to respond to emerging ethical issues.

Ethics of care: researchers should be critically aware of the distribution of power in the research process, and care about the welfare of participants and communities impacted by the research process, with particular attention to vulnerable populations.

Transformation: positively contribute to achieving social justice and improve the lives of participants and communities, including through political action and engagement with policy-making processes.

Empowerment: create opportunities for participants to be given a voice, engage in reciprocal learning and work towards changing the conditions of their lives.

Decolonizing knowledge production: shedding light on the enduring operation of racial and ethnocentric frameworks of colonial knowledge systems and their impacts on the operation of the social world, working towards research practices and relationships that incorporate concepts and methodologies from worldviews and intellectual traditions that have historically been excluded or marginalised in colonial knowledge frameworks, and contributing to furthering the self-determination of colonised peoples.

Key strategies used to apply the principles of feminist research include:

  • Exercising reflexivity and self-reflexivity.
  • Consulting and collaborating with those who are being researched at all stages of the research process to take into account the interests of participants.
  • Enabling those who are being researched to actively participate in the knowledge production process.
  • Where appropriate, engaging in transnational collaborative and comparative dialogues, and alliances that seek to challenge dominant epistemologies (or ways of knowing about the world) and work towards an ethics of transformation.

The Ongoing Role of Research Ethics

Feminist research ethics inform all aspects of the research process and will be relevant in the remaining modules covered in the GenUrb Research Training program.

Examples of the application of feminist research ethics will continue to be explored in other modules, including:

  • How to conduct a literature review
  • Research Methods
  • Fieldwork
  • Data Analysis
  • Data management
  • Knowledge mobilization