On SAGE Insight: Qualitative Research Ethics in the Big Data Era

From American Behavioral Scientist

This article aims to promote detailed discussions of the ethical and practical concerns that arise for the practice of qualitative research in the Big Data era.

The emergence of Big Data technologies inspires ethical concerns about their potential and varied effects on qualitative research to be raised, given the prominence afforded to Big Data in many research communities. Although new data gathering, storage, sharing, and analyzing technologies enable innovative approaches to qualitative research, they also create unique challenges for the responsible use of that data.

Drawing from a literature review and insights gathered at a National Science Foundation-funded workshop in 2016, five principles for qualitative researchers and their institutions to consider in navigating these emerging research landscapes.

Big Data technologies and approaches have changed the norms and ethics of research practices, regardless of whether qualitative research directly engages these developments. There is a need to actively engage in debates and consider how qualitative researchers can shape the directions and conditions for conducting ethical and meaningful research.

Abstract

This article examines the developments that have motivated this special issue on Qualitative Research Ethics in the Big Data Era. The article offers a broad overview of many pressing challenges and opportunities that the Big Data era raises particularly for qualitative research. Big Data has introduced to the social sciences new data sources, new research methods, new researchers, and new forms of data storage that have immediate and potential effects on the ethics and practice of qualitative research. Drawing from a literature review and insights gathered at a National Science Foundation-funded workshop in 2016, we present five principles for qualitative researchers and their institutions to consider in navigating these emerging research landscapes. These principles include (a) valuing methodological diversity; (b) encouraging research that accounts for and retains context, specificity, and marginalized and overlooked populations; (c) pushing beyond legal concerns to address often messy ethical dilemmas; (d) attending to regional and disciplinary differences; and (e) considering the entire cycle of research, including the data afterlife in archives or in open-data facilities.

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Article details
Qualitative Research Ethics in the Big Data Era
Arielle Hesse, Leland Glenna, Clare Hinrichs, Robert Chiles, Carolyn Sachs
First Published November 5, 2018 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/0002764218805806
From American Behavioral Scientist

     
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