Authored by: Fiona Copland

The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Ethnography

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138938168
eBook ISBN: 9781315675824
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores ethical issues in linguistic ethnography. It starts with a historical overview showing how social science has tended to draw on and adapt the ethical codes developed within the medical field. Key ethical principles are identified, including doing good, avoiding doing harm, ensuring informed consent, anonymity and confidentiality, and giving research participants the right to withdraw. Issues around covert research are considered, as well as issues of justice, equality and considering whose voices are heard in the research. The chapter goes on to discuss the regulation of ethics by university ethics board and the potential dangers of bureaucratisation and ‘ethics creep’ that this can entail. Linguistic ethnography faces particular challenges in this regard. Ethical dilemmas emerge during the fieldwork and cannot always be planned for at the time of applying for ethical approval. The chapter argues that to support researchers in the future, resources could be developed, such as a bank of ethical issues’ discussion and training in linguistic ethnographic ethics. The chapter is illustrated throughout with reference to case studies of specific ethical challenges which have arisen in linguistic ethnographic research.

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