FASS647: Risky Research: Ethics, Reflexivity, and Risk

Module description

This module is open to all PhD students. It is likely to be of most relevance to those planning fieldwork or data collection. This is likely to be those at the end of their first year and going into the second year of their PhDs. It may also be relevant to PGT students who are planning to gather sensitive data.

Educational Aims

Postgraduate research can involve fieldwork and data collection processes that present elevated risks to the researcher and their participants. This can include carrying out research in hostile environments such as fragile states or humanitarian settings, and desk-based research that poses specific types of risk, for example, research on terrorist organisations. This course will equip students with the skills to enable them to identify and mitigate these risks and address the ethical issues raised by risky research.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Assess the ethical issues implicated in risky research and produce ethics applications able to address them;
  • Identify the kinds of risks researchers might encounter in the field or through collection of sensitive data and develop appropriate risk assessment and management plans;
  • Explain the concept of reflexivity and how it relates to their research;
  • Design and implement data management practices that reduce risks to the researcher and participants, ensuring ethical commitments are met.


The one day course will cover four areas:


  1. Ethics: identifying and developing strategies to address ethical issues in the context of risky research
  2. Risk assessment and mitigation: assessing the risks associated with research projects, and determining and employing effective mitigation processes


  1. Reflexivity: exploring the concept and application of reflexivity in risky research
  2. Data management: developing appropriate data management strategies

Introductory Reading

Belousov, K., Horlick-Jones, et al., (2007). Any port in a storm: Fieldwork difficulties in dangerous and crisis-ridden settings. Qualitative Research7(2), 155-175.

Kovatsā€Bernat, J. C. (2002). Negotiating dangerous fields: Pragmatic strategies for fieldwork amid violence and terror. American Anthropologist104(1), 208-222.

Lee-Treweek, G., & Linkogle, S. (2000). Danger in the field: Risk and ethics in social research. Psychology Press.

Nilan, P. (2002). ‘Dangerous fieldwork' re-examined: the question of researcher subject position. Qualitative Research2(3), 363-386.

Wood, E. J. (2006). The ethical challenges of field research in conflict zones. Qualitative Sociology29(3), 373-386.

Timing and Location





Number of sessions:

2 x 3 hour sessions

Timing and Location:

Thursday, week 25

9.30-12.30 Faraday Seminar Room 3

1.30-4.30 Faraday Seminar Room 4


Additional information

Minimum quota: 6