“(some participants are disturbing people)”

I don’t have too much to say on the readings for this week other than that I am pretty interested in research ethics –  especially in regards to interviewing.  One of the things that stood out to me in Knight’s chapter was when he said that researchers should not become too involved with the participants because they can be “disturbing people.” Obviously Knight is writing from the perspective of the researcher, so that is who he is sympathizing with, but that is still a bit of a funny (awkward) statement.  I did like the suggestion that the researcher might carry pamphlets or other resources for the participants if sensitive subjects such as illness or crime might be discussed – that seems like good advice, but perhaps not maintaining an appropriate distance from the subject. 

Another thing that I found interesting was that the U of T REB was primarily concerned with respect from human dignity in Research Involving Human Subjects. Of course respecting and maintaining the dignity of the participants is paramount, but it is also quite vague – I expected that it would go into more detail. I’m sure that these issues will be addressed in class so this is a bit of a ramble, but I look forward to learning more about this.


One thought on ““(some participants are disturbing people)”

  1. bradleymcilwain

    Hi Jess,

    I found Knight’s comments a little unsettling, too. When Knight says, “researches who have the interpersonal qualities to encourage people to open up are those also most likely to be moved and to feel that they ‘should’ help,” but, “the standard advice is also not to become personally involved, partly because some participants can be dangerous (some participants are disturbing
    people) and there are limits to what a lone person without the right expertise can do – and can do without disrupting the official help systems,” (Knight: 172) it raises questions about what our motivation should be behind conducting research.

    I don’t think it’s enough that researchers conduct studies in order to make a contribution to the ‘literature’. The question is not why researchers feel they ‘should’ help but why shouldn’t they? Research should be conducted selflessly, with the purpose of helping others and should make some contribution to society. We also need to consider the very personal nature of conducting face to face or ethnographic research, and the impact of revisiting sensitive materials such as past traumas (why should we include this in our research if we don’t think it can help others?).

    By categorizing participants as ‘dangerous’ and ‘disturbing’, isn’t Knight showing his bias here? It’s so general that I think more of an explanation could have been given, and maybe examples of one or two situations where participants are ‘dangerous’ and ‘disturbing,’ as these words are used completely subjectively.

    I think that it is the responsibility of the researcher to make other information available to those participants who are in need by providing help pamphlets, but having open communication with medical services before hand, or having them close by could be more beneficial, and safer, by providing immediate care.


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