Researching marginalised groups: some difficult questions

We often get research requests that our participants find harmful and exploitative. We have posted about this before but this blog is another gentle check-in before as you consider your thesis, dissertation or whatever it is you think that we can help you with.

In short: “To summarise: if your research is not needed, don’t do it. If you’re unsure of your motivations (or if they’re self-serving), don’t do it. If you’re a complete outsider, don’t do it. If you can use existing sources of data, use them. If you do end up working with marginalised people, look after them. Afterwards, give up your platform whenever you can.”

However if you want to do research WITH us – let’s talk!

genders, bodies, politics

marginalised groups

Every year, my students ask me questions about doing research with marginalised groups. The university is an incredibly privileged space, but some of our students are not – and many of the others are politically committed and care passionately about inequality and abuses of power. Often, they want to contribute to causes by conducting their dissertation research on related topics. However, there are questions around whether exploring these topics through research with human subjects is appropriate – too often, students end up asking for time and attention from people who already live difficult lives, and producing projects which (due to time constraints and lack of background knowledge) make little difference. I advise my students to ask themselves a number of questions when selecting their research topics:

  1. Who is this research for? Is there a demonstrable need?

The best way to approach this question is to design research in collaboration with…

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