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Ethical Research Involving Children

The people in the pictures research: Taking care with photo elicitation.

Warrington, S. (2020). The people in the pictures research: Taking care with photo elicitation. In S. Dodd (Ed.), Ethics and Integrity in Visual Research Methods (Vol. 5, pp. 43-63). Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited.

Abstract: This chapter introduces the approaches and methods employed in a four-country research project that resulted in the 2017 report The People in the Pictures: Vital perspectives on Save the Children’s image making. It presents and explores the ethical issues that emerged throughout the process of the research, particularly in relation to photo elicitation – the use of images (still and moving) within both interviews and focus groups. Interviews and focus groups took place in the UK, Jordan, Bangladesh, and Niger with a total of 202 research participants. The research involved sharing Save the Children content (fundraising materials, published reports, online news features, TV adverts, and short films) with research participants. Research participants included those featured in some of these visual communication materials (referred to as contributors), and other individuals within their communities (referred to as non-contributors). The following principles and decisions informed the research design: safe and ethical practice; inclusive, engaging and accessible approaches; the participation of children; prioritising first-hand accounts; no photography or filming; and the preparation of location- and language-specific resources for each interview and focus group. The main ethical issues to emerge during the design of the research related to predicting (and responding) to any potential negative impacts of the research on participants, particularly contributors, but also children. The researchers also experienced some unexpected ethical encounters, including visual materials causing some concern or distress. Additionally, assuring research participants’ anonymity led to the necessity of extra care when publishing the report and the use of images within that.

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