How to address a conflict of interest in a dissertation study?
May 22, 2010 6:14 AM Subscribe
Seeking advice for an issue with my dissertation and how to address a problem in my research protocol.
posted by archimago to Education (6 answers total)
My dissertation proposal is up for review with my university's institutional review board, which must approve my research and the protection of its human subjects before I can proceed with getting the proposal approved by my department, which all must come before I collect data at my research site. I am collecting data in a middle school for an ethnographic case study for an Ed.D.
Here's the rub: I am using the school in which I am an administrator as my research site, and the review board has already preliminarily indicated that this is an issue with risk to participants because of my dual role as administrator and principal researcher. For example, learning something through the study cannot be used in employee/student evaluations, but I simply can't "not know" something about a participant. This conflict of interest raises the level of risk for the human subjects.
The board met officially yesterday and I should be getting another letter this coming week asking for clarification/further information, and I want to prepare my response, knowing that they are going to require one (they sent a letter already just to let me know that upon initial review, this was a concern).
I'm having a difficult time locating anything in the literature on qualitative research that can help me address this, and the option of changing locations is not something I am willing to consider (yet). The entire dissertation is based on a specific cultural construct of this specific school.
I've already detailed the standard protections that minimize risk, and the issues really are about a conflict of interest. Here is what I am planning to implement as a response. Any help/suggestion and/or practical advice from similar experience will help immensely. At the moment I am unsure how to handle the issue of the students.
-- Our teacher evaluations are done by a committee of admins, so there is never a time when my decisions alone will result in someone losing employment. As an additional safeguard, I will abstain from the evaluations of the teachers who participate in the study.
-- I will keep detailed field notes of my participant observation and written transcripts of interviews so that there is a physical record of my interactions with the participants.
Thanks in advance for any help.