Research Methods (1) Interviews

12. Ethical issues in research interviews (a) Relationship between researchers and participants

  • Imbalances of power between researchers and participants can impact on what participants feel they can talk about in an interview. The exercise of reflexivity can be key to becoming aware of the implications of your own positionality as a researcher and the way it impacts on the interview and your research participants.
  • Feminist researchers have adopted participatory strategies, such as, sharing their own biographies with their participants during interviews, and giving research findings and interpretations back to their participants for their input.
  • However, particularly in the case of research with vulnerable populations, reflexivity may not in itself be sufficient to counter an uneven balance of power between researchers and research participants. In some cases, strategies such as sharing details of your personal biography with participants can “provide a false illusion that there is no power and authority” and make participants more vulnerable by inducing them to share more intimate details (Hesse-Biber 2014, p. 199).

Case Study

The “peer designed reciprocal interview” is a method developed by Porter, Neysmith, Reitsma-Street, and Baker Collins as a strategy to break down the power hierarchy between researchers and participants. It involves:

  •  training participants in basic interview techniques,
  •  pairing them with a peer
  •  getting each pair to engage in reciprocal interviewing, where each takes turns alternately asking and answering questions (Hesse-Biber 2014, p. 217).