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Thinking with Ethics in and beyond the field

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Course Information


This workshop focuses on ethics in the space in which research is practised. Ethics as research practice involves going beyond the moments of ethics regulation and review to consider how ethical dilemmas feature at all stages of the research process.


Ethical dilemmas are often played out in grey zone areas where regulations and codes of conduct for research integrity are not sufficient to guide the individual researcher. Ethical dilemmas are thus often difficult to talk about or write about – fear of being judged as unethical can make researchers feel vulnerable – and so be reluctant to expose their experiences, this in turn can make it harder to learn. This workshop provides a  safe space in which participants – including the workshop convenors – will share reflections on ethics dilemmas across the research process (from inception, through fieldwork and analysis to dissemination).


We offer an opportunity to unpack hesitancy as a way of dealing with real-life research concerns and potential vulnerabilities that have no obvious or easily anticipated solution. Hesitancy offers a productive moment:  in refraining from action, we resist the idea of prescriptive formula for ethical research practice, and draw on underpinning knowledge of ethics codes and regulatory systems as a framework for thinking productively about grey zones in research ethics.  In this way, the workshop will offer a containing space, where the vulnerabilities of ethical dilemmas and decisions can be shared, and strategies developed through shared reflection and discussion. We will consider how hesitancy can bring about a productive pause, creating a space in which to question immediate impulses and attend to aspects of the situation that are more complicated and difficult to resolve, before moving forwards in considered action.


When out in the field, or engaged in writing and dissemination, the researcher is often left on her own in deciding and manoeuvring potential ethical pitfalls, looking to do the right ethical thing at critical points in the research process.  This workshop is designed to provide participants with skills and strategies for recognising and managing uncertainty and not-knowing in the face of ethical risks and dilemmas in the field and in writing about research, drawing in particular on the concept of ‘ethical hesitancy’ as a strategy for thinking with ethics.


Bringing together perspectives from Denmark, the UK and beyond, the workshop will examine the ways in which national contexts and cultural perspectives frame our understandings of what is ethical, what is risky, and who is vulnerable, and hence how we should deal with ethics in research.

Course Code


Course Date

7th September 2017

Places Available

Course Leader

Prof Janet Boddy & Ass Prof Jette Kofoed
Course Description

The course covers:

  • Introduction to the workshop from the convenors

                 Reconceptualising risk and vulnerability: thinking across contexts

                 Reconceptualising ethics as a matter of hesitancy

  • Sharing our work

                  Workshop participants will each give very short (pecha kucha style) introductions to their work

  •  Examples of ethics dilemmas in our work

                  Unexpected dilemmas: examples from the group

                  Sharing dilemmas across contexts: workshop discussion

  • Concluding discussions and next steps             
  • Concluding discussions will review learning outcomes (as below), but will also aim to establish the group as a community of practice, enabling links between researchers to support them in thinking and writing through ethics in their ongoing research.
  • By the end of the course participants will:
  • gain skills and strategies for recognising and managing uncertainty and not-knowing in the face of ethical dilemmas in the field and in writing about research
  • gain critical insight into the ways in which national contexts and cultural perspectives frame our understandings of ethics and vulnerability, and how we should deal with ethics and risk in research
  •  understand how to think with ethical hesitancy across the research process.

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