A study cannot be a good study unless proper ethical standards have been maintained. This article examines ethical thinking and practice in qualitative social work research. A review of a randomly selected sample of articles published in social work journals in the past decade was conducted, centered around four main issues: (a) prevention of harm; (b) empowerment-related aspects of the research process; (c) research-related benefits for participants and others; and (d) researchers’ technical competence. Our findings suggest that, as a general trend, ethical considerations are marginal in most phases of the studies that are reported in our journals. This raises questions as to the meaning of ‘proper ethical standards’ in qualitative social work research and as to the extent research ethics are regarded as important by researchers and journal editors in our field.
- qualitative social work research
- research ethics
- social work ethics