Unpacking Sensitive Research: Epistemological and Methodological Implications

Borgstrom, Erica; Mallon, Sharon and Murphy, Sam eds. (2022). Unpacking Sensitive Research: Epistemological and Methodological Implications. Abingdon: Routledge.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003252320

Abstract

The term ‘sensitive research’ is applied to a wide range of issues and settings. It is used to denote projects that may involve risk to people, stigmatising topics, and/or require a degree of sensitivity on behalf of the researcher. Rather than take the notion of ‘sensitive research’ for granted, this collection unpacks and challenges what the term means.

This book is a collective endeavour to reflect on research practices around ‘sensitive research’, providing in-depth explorations about what this label means to different researchers, how it is done – including the need to be sensitive as a researcher – and what impacts this has on methods and knowledge creation. The book includes chapters from researchers who have explored a diverse range of research topics, including sex and sexuality, death, abortion, and learning disabilities, from several disciplinary perspectives, including sociology, anthropology, health services research and interdisciplinary work. The researchers included here collectively argue that current approaches fail to adequately account for the complex mix of emotions, experiences, and ethical dilemmas at the heart of many ‘sensitive’ research encounters. Overall, this book moves the field of ‘sensitive research’ beyond the genericity of this label, showing ways in which researchers have in practice addressed the methodological threats that are triggered when we uncritically embark on ‘sensitive research'.

The chapters in this book were originally published in the International Journal of Social Research Methodology and the journal Mortality.

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