Research Methods: Considering Ethics in your research

Eira Patterson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Exercising the right to withdraw

In practice, exercising the right to withdraw from a research study may be difficult for certain groups of participants. In particular children may be reluctant to tell the researcher that they do not want to be involved in the project any more, particularly if that person is their teacher due to the power dynamics involved (Alderson, 2004). A related issue may be that the participant may just not want to answer a particular question, but feel obliged to do so. There is no easy solution to this problem, however sensitivity on your part as the researcher to the reactions and body language of participants can give you insights into whether a participant is feeling uncomfortable or under pressure (Langston, Abbot, Lewis and Kellett, 2004). You will then be in a position to explore the reasons for this further, and take appropriate action.

An approach that has been used in research being carried out with children, and people with limited communication, is the use of a ‘stop’ card. Before each part of the research it is important that participants are reminded of how to use the cards and they are given opportunities to practice using them. They can hold up the card if they decide they do not want to answer a particular question or if they no longer want to participate in the project (Wiles, Charles, Crow and Heath, 2004).