University of Limerick
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Navigating the process of ethical approval : a methodological note

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journal contribution
posted on 2011-07-06, 17:10 authored by EILEEN CAREYEILEEN CAREY
Classic grounded theory (CGT) methodology is a general methodology whereby the researcher aims to develop an emergent conceptual theory from empirical data collected by the researcher during the research study. Gaining ethical approval from relevant ethics committees to access such data is the starting point for processing a CGT study. The adoption of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (UNESCO, 2005) is an indication of global consensus on the importance of research ethics. There is, however, a wide variation of health research systems across countries and disciplines (Hearnshaw 2004). Institutional Research Boards (IRB) or Research Ethics Committees (REC) have been established in many countries to regulate ethical research ensuring that researchers agree to, and adhere to, specific ethical and methodological conditions prior to ethical approval being granted. Interestingly, both the processes and outcomes through which the methodological aspects pertinent to CGT studies are agreed between the researcher and ethics committee remain largely ambiguous and vague. Therefore, meeting the requirements for ethical approval from ethics committees, while enlisting the CGT methodology as a chosen research approach, can be daunting for novice researchers embarking upon their first CGT study. This article has been written in response to the main challenges encountered by the author from an Irish perspective when seeking ethical approval to undertake a CGT research study with adults with intellectual disabilities. The emphasis on ethical specifications meant that the CGT author had to balance ethical principles and rules with issues of ‘not knowing before one is in a position to know’ and ‘trusting in emergence’. Ethical prescription challenged the emergence inherent within CGT methodology. While acknowledging the need for ethical requirements, this paper is intended in particular to illuminate methodological challenges which may confront novice classic grounded theorists, and offer some insight into the practicalities of balancing the requirements of ethics committees with the requirements of the CGT methodology. The author demonstrates that the meticulous nature of the CGT methodology must not be overshadowed when meeting the requirements of ethics committees. The author seeks to encourage novice classic grounded theorists to approach ethics committees with research proposals which reflect the fundamental principles of CGT methodology while challenging experienced classic grounded theorists researchers to stand firm on ethics committees supporting such proposals.



The Grounded Theory Review;9/ 3/ pp.19-32


Sociology Press CA, USA





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