By Margaret D. LeCompte University of Colorado Boulder, Jean J. Schensul Institute for Community Research
Ethics in Ethnography: A combined tools method
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Extra resources for Ethics in ethnography : a mixed methods approach
For the most part, these experiments added nothing to scientific knowledge and can only be attributed to exercises in sadism (Annas and Grodin, 1992; Baumslag, 2005). The Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal, convened to document and try perpetrators of crimes against humanity inflicted by the Nazi regime, found the behavior of many Nazi concentration camp doctors to be particularly heinous. The outrage stimulated by their behavior led in 1947 to the creation of the Nuremberg Code, which was among the first documents to codify the ethical conditions for the conduct of research involving human subjects.
Are data obtained through purchase or bribery less likely to be accurate or to be interpreted accurately? As we have indicated above, yet another—and quite current—ethical issue has to do with changes in perceptions regarding who has the right to tell the story of, portray, or otherwise to “represent” a given people’s culture, lifestyle, and concerns. When friends tell stories about one another, contradictions can be confronted by others in the neighborhood, and gossip can be counteracted. However, in the past, the books and articles in which ethnographers’ views and descriptions were contained were rarely accessed or challenged either by colleagues or key informants.
This is because all quantitative 1/26/15 2:43 PM 19 ETHICS AND ETHNO GRAPHY research begins with qualitative evidence that has been transformed into numeric information or numbers that do not reflect “real” quantities (LeCompte and Schensul, 2010; Schensul, Schensul, and LeCompte, 2013; Schensul and LeCompte, 2013). For example, Likert scales generate data that resemble numbers, but they actually represent ranges of qualities, not real quantities. Similarly, math, science, and language test scores look like the most quantitative of data, but they are based upon qualities and degrees of more intangible factors, for which the scores are taken as indicators or proxies in a process of operationalization.