Re-Envisioning Member Checking and Communicating Results as Accountability Practice in Qualitative Research: A South African Community-Based Organization Example

Thirusha Naidu, Neil Prose


Ethical considerations in communicating results to participants in community-based qualitative research are scrutinized less than in medical or genetics research. We report on ethical issues considered in planning, preparing and returning of study findings to members of a community-based organization who provide care and support services in their community in rural area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Using returning results as fulcrum, we explore the ethics of member checking and dissemination of findings. We propose revising these activities through ritual criticism aiming for the re-examination of routine ethics systems for the evaluation and improvement of practice. A case example illustrates how returning results comprise accountability practices through methods that are relevant, accessible, meaningful and useful to study participants. Finally, we consider how the dissemination of results to a wider audience might also be performed as accountability practices with deference to participants. Attention to representing results in forms that resonate with participants' frames of reference is called for. The term accountability practices or taking-it-back practices might describe the acts more authentically than current conventions motivating researchers to review current philosophical, ethical and methodological positions on member checking, returning results and dissemination practices.


accountability; autonomy; dissemination; member checking; procedural ethics; returning results; social justice; taking-it-back practice; communicative validation

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Copyright (c) 2018 Thirusha Naidu, Neil Prose

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