chapter  4
Exploiting the Exploited? The Ethics of Feminist Educational Research
Pages 21

In the early stages of my research I expected that I would spend most time pondering over weighty matters of theoretical interpretation. In fact, the aspect of the research which has caused me most soul searching has been to do with the ethical issues which have constantly arisen. On the subject of the Girls into Science and Technology (GIST) action research project, Kelly (in this volume) comments that while the research was actually being carried out, those who were involved were more concerned with actually getting on with the work than agonizing over the ethical issues which it raised. The analysis which she gives of the ethics of the research is, then, retrospective. As she points out, one of the problems with this is that three years after a research project has finished, memories of what actually happened and what it felt like at the time will have blurred. In contrast, my involvement with the ethical issues of the research has been ongoing, and continues today, one-and-a-half years after the final set of interviews were completed. This is not because I am a particularly moral person, but rather, I think, because I was trying to deal not only with the ethical demands of mainstream sociology, but also with those of feminist sociology which, as I discuss in this chapter, were sometimes at variance with each other. I also discuss the specific ethical questions I encountered with regard to feminist research. These tended to concern definitions of honesty, power relations between researcher and researched and the degree of responsibility which the researcher has for those who participate in the research. I will consider how problems associated with these issues recurred throughout the research process, looking particularly at ethical issues associated with choice of methods, negotiating access, dealing with power relations in fieldwork, analyzing and interpreting data and finally disseminating findings.