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Ethical Research Involving Children

Performativity of children in spaces of play

Hi I am looking to conduct research for my dissertation covertly observing children in spaces of play e.g. summer camp where I will work, along side other spaces such as parks, bowling alleys etc. I currently have two younger siblings who I will bring with me into these spaces to allow me to gain access without looking suspicious. I am worried about the ethical implications of my research, I hope to observe different behaviors of children noting down my findings in a fieldwork notebook. However, like I said I wish to observe covertly, and hence will not be gaining consent from children or their parents. I will not be using names, ages etc, merely note taking on things that I see in this natural environment. Any advice would be great, thanks.


  • eric

    April 12, 2016

    Thanks for your question. It sounds as though you wish to observe children naturally at play and do not want them to feel interrupted or inhibited. However, what you are proposing does not seem ethically sound. Please refer to the guidance on informed consent and the Getting Started section in the ERIC Compendium for further advice.

  • Julia Truscott

    April 19, 2019

    One way to approach this might be to begin by finding a group of children who know one another and who are comfortable with you (such as through your siblings or your work). You would then need to approach the parents / guardians and the children about your research and seek their consent for you to observe them at play. initially the children might not play naturally. Over time though, they would likely become used to your presence and their play would become more natural. You might also consider combining this with a more participatory approach, where the children offer insights or co-research alongside you.

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