A Delicate Balancing Act: Negotiating with Gatekeepers for Ethical Research When Researching Minority Communities

Ruth McAreavey, Chaitali Das

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
1900 Downloads (Pure)


Research and processes of knowledge production are often based on racialised and imperialistic frameworks that have either led to the exclusion or pathologisation of minority groups. Researchers address issues of exclusion by adopting recruitment strategies that involve negotiating with gatekeepers to ensure the inclusion of minority or marginalised groups. This often involves in-depth scrutiny of gatekeepers and requires the researchers to negotiate deals and to make personal disclosures. However, there remains relatively little discussion on the pragmatic ethical issues facing researchers in the field as a result of these interactions.
This paper suggests that interactions with gatekeepers present ethical issues that can be effectively addressed and managed by researchers through the exercise of phronesis. This allows researchers to make critical ethical decisions based on the specific characteristics of the research sites and subjects, not least of which are those issues that emerge as a consequence of researcher positionality. Such decisions are not necessarily identified or accommodated through bureaucratic processes which govern research ethics. We advance the notion of research ethics as an ongoing process that requires researcher skills and engagement, rather than one where it is a one off bureaucratic exercise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-131
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • gatekeepers, research ethics, deal-making, ethical scrutiny, minority groups, phronesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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