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Webinar: Protecting Human Subjects in Qualitative Research: Ethical Considerations for IRBs and Researchers

On October 24, 2013, Julie Simpson, PhD , director of research integrity services at the University of New Hampshire, provided an introduction to qualitative research; discussed ethical challenges inherent in conducting and reviewing this type of research; and offered strategies to address them.

In qualitative inquiry, researchers study phenomena in their natural settings, where the purpose is contextualization, interpretation, and/or understanding the perspectives of others. The role of qualitative researchers in a study is characterized by personal involvement and empathetic understanding. The challenges specific to this research domain, for both researchers and institutional review boards (IRBs), include the emergent nature of qualitative research, a researcher’s relationships with research subjects, obtaining informed consent, and confidentiality and privacy.

Additionally, IRB members’ gaps in understanding qualitative inquiry may stand in the way of correctly identifying problematic aspects of a proposed study, or result in what is often viewed as inappropriate changes to the study design. Qualitative researchers are often frustrated by this perceived lack of understanding of qualitative inquiry. These gaps in understanding may also result in IRBs not correctly identifying problematic aspects of a proposed study. Further, qualitative researchers may not fully grasp the ethical concerns that their studies raise vis-à-vis human subjects protections, such as the potential effects of a researcher’s dual roles in a setting, or that informed consent is a process. They may also not understand how to mitigate such concerns and/or to communicate effectively with IRBs about how to address these challenges within the regulatory framework.

The goal of this webinar was to provide IRB members with a better understanding of the issues that qualitative researchers face and to introduce strategies to address these issues while recognizing the unique characteristics of the qualitative research process. Topics for discussion included:

  • Differences between qualitative and quantitative research paradigms.
  • Ethical issues that qualitative research methodologies may present to study participants.
  • Strategies for IRB members and qualitative researchers to minimize harm to study participants.
This webinar was of interest to researchers involved in qualitative studies, and to IRB members, directors, and staff that review qualitative research protocols.

Continuing Education
Webinar participants holding the Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) credential may apply 1 continuing education credits towards CIP recertification. Learn More »