Posts Tagged ‘Research Ethics’

Today I’m happy to present a guest post from my colleague Andrew Hodgkins. While this post is not specifically about Chinese education and society, it was part of the session in which I presented on the ethics of research in Mainland China. I hope you enjoy his contribution. If you don’t, I hope you’ll take it out on Andrew and not me!



I need to get something off my chest: Having recently completed my fieldwork, I was asked to present on research ethics – but quite honestly, I am at a loss for words as to what it means to be ethical. This admission is one of those “lessons learned from the field” – ethics (that little voice inside my head telling me what is right and what is wrong) is not easily articulated – this may relate to the fact that researchers are afraid of admitting that they are all to human and make mistakes. We also tend to be so focused on our narrow research areas that ethics is one of those add-ons associated with a myriad of questions required to be answered “properly” by various gate keeping mechanisms designed to provide higher educational institutions with some level of assurance that they have covered themselves legally before cutting  grad students loose into the “field.” As I reflect upon the experience


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This post is a follow up to a presentation two colleagues and I made to (mostly) members of our department on November 25th, 2011 entitled “What do I do? Stories Around Ethics.” I’m hoping to get these colleagues to put their thoughts from that day into text on this blog. Look for those in the future.


In this post I reflect on my own life and research in Mainland China. I present ideas from four people who have influenced me in these reflections. My tentative conclusion is that a qualified universalism of practical ethics ought to undergird both everyday life and research practice in “other cultural contexts.” Such a universalism does not amount to advocating a single set of behaviours or methods in research. Rather, what I hope to arrive at is a defensible set of, in Bourdieu’s (1977) terms, “generative principles” to guide ethical research practice. If you find this post provocative, if you notice problems or gaps in my argument, please provide some feedback at the end of the post.


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