Sensitive, challenging, and difficult topics: Experiences and practical considerations for qualitative researchers

Sergio A. Silverio*, Kayleigh S. Sheen, Alessandra Bramante, Katherine Knighting, Thula U. Koops, Elsa Montgomery, Lucy November, Laura K. Soulsby, Jasmin H. Stevenson, Megan C. Watkins, Abigail Easter, Jane Sandall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
319 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Qualitative researchers often engage in work addressing challenging, difficult, or sensitive topics and are consequently exposed to the participants’ narratives which may be emotionally charged, distressing, or compromising. These narratives occasionally rest heavy on a researcher’s conscience or may linger in the mind. Much literature has assessed how best to keep participants safe, but less attention has been given to how we keep researchers safe. We therefore document the following: (1) Our experiences of the issues presented by undertaking qualitative research involving challenging, difficult, or sensitive topics; and (2) Practical principles devised to overcome these issues, ensuring safety and wellbeing amongst researchers engaging in these types of qualitative research. We provide guidance for qualitative researchers of all levels of experience and expertise on how best to protect and support themselves, their colleagues, and other collaborating research staff, when undertaking qualitative research which might otherwise feel uncomfortable or overwhelming to tackle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2022

Keywords

  • Qualitative Research
  • Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Sensitive Information
  • Supervision
  • Researcher Burn-out
  • Research Fatigue
  • Secondary Trauma
  • Traumatic Stress
  • Qualitative Praxis
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Researcher Safety and Wellbeing

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