Today I received detailed feedback from my supervisors on my draft submission for ethical approval. It’s reassuring to have some wiser and more experienced clearly isolate and highlight some of the issues that felt ill-defined or less well-articulated. Not to mention point out the inconsistencies or lack of alignment that you never spotted. The latter are relatively easily corrected; the former need a little more thought.
In particular I need to reconsider the toolkit of methods I’m proposing for my pilot study. I’m clearly asking a lot of myself and in my submission haven’t clearly expressed whether what I’m proposing is achievable or desirable. I could reduce the breadth by prioritising and rationalising my choices, or I could aim for less depth and rather than a full thematic analysis, write research and substantive memos reflecting on the methods. Another way I might explore the demands these choices will make on me is to break down the times required for each of the methods and map that out against the time I’ll have available in following months.
Another area where my submission could be strengthened is by providing a supplement in which I justify my ethical decisions by referencing the relevant literature. This could of course be literature specific to ethical issues, or more generic methodology literature in which ethical issues are referenced. Although I included with my submission the appendix I mentioned previously, it didn’t include any references to the literature which had informed my thinking. I made the choice not to include references for simple practical reasons – in an attempt get all the information in a single summarising sheet. Like my supervisors, the ethical review panel won’t have the time to pore over the posts I wrote, so I need to summarise that thinking into a more succinct form.
The final issue I need to address is one I knew might be problematic; that of preserving anonymity for the participants. If verbatim quotes are not required in any published materials, ensuring anonymity for participants should be possible. As I discussed before though, I’m concerned whether those involved would want to remain anonymous; I think I need to make a case for why citing participants might actually be more ethical, by drawing on those studies where more learned people than me have actually done just that.
Over the next few posts I’ll attempt to address these issues.