Undertaking Sensitive Research: Issues and Strategies for Meeting the Safety Needs of All Participants


  • Heather McCosker Queensland University of Technology
  • Alan Barnard Queensland University of Technology
  • Rod Gerber University of New England




sensitive research, risk, transcriber, researcher, supervision, safety protocols


There are many phenomena that within specific cultural and social context are "sensitive". They may be defined as "sensitive" if they are private, stressful or sacred, and discussion tends to generate an emotional response, for example death and sex. Phenomena that deal with potential fear of stigmatisation, such as the study of sub-cultures, and studies that may reveal information of a politically sensitive nature may also be considered "sensitive". In response to the "sensitive" nature of such phenomena Ethics Committees act as gatekeepers during the research process to protect individuals and/or groups who form the sample from harm. Experience and a review of current literature clearly indicates that these are not the only participants affected by the research. The researchers, transcribers, supervisors and readers of publications may also be placed at risk. This risk may be physical and/or psychological. In order to protect all participants' physical and psychological safety protocols or guidelines need to be developed at the beginning of the research process to identify and minimise risk, or respond to risk as they arise during the research process. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0101220


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Author Biographies

Heather McCosker, Queensland University of Technology

Heather McCOSKER, MNsg. Lecturer – Nursing and Midwifery

Alan Barnard, Queensland University of Technology

Alan BARNARD, PhD. Lecturer - Nursing

Rod Gerber, University of New England

Dean, Faculty of Education, Health, and Professional Studies; University of New England




How to Cite

McCosker, H., Barnard, A., & Gerber, R. (2001). Undertaking Sensitive Research: Issues and Strategies for Meeting the Safety Needs of All Participants. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-2.1.983