You are here

Doing Research on Sensitive Topics
Share

Doing Research on Sensitive Topics



March 1993 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"This text. . .suggests the reciprocity between the 'theory' and the practice of research. . . . The book reveals that. . . attention to 'sensitive' topics as the central focus of inquiry and evaluation is relatively recent. . . . The value of Raymond Lee's book is to demonstrate the breadth of what might be included in this category. . . . the book demonstrates how some important dimensions of 'sensitivity' have been dealt with on a naïve level." --Barbara Harrison in Journal of Interprofessional Care "The book offers communication researchers some of the best recent work on qualitative inquiry in the human disciplines. . . . Published by Sage, the leading publisher of qualitative research in the social sciences today. . . . This is an important book that deserves careful study. It moves the sociological voyeur into new regions of surveillance and subterfuge. . . . This work brings the communication scholar up-to-date on where qualitative methods are in current sociological and educational discourse." --Norman K. Denzin in Journal of Communication "The author, a British sociologist, has created an account of social research that is both wide ranging and eye opening. . . . The book makes clear that it is better to learn to manage sensitive issues than to avoid them by pursuing only safe lines of research." --Library and Information Science Report "A thought-provoking and fairly complete methodological study of risky social research. Raymond M. Lee's Doing Research on Sensitive Topics is more comprehensive, including as it does detailed approaches for those who choose to examine controversial issues. . . . Out of the numerous case studies that he touches upon emerge important methodological, ethical, and personal concerns, most of which are dealt with straightforwardly and in detail. The thirty-two page bibliography alone is a gold mine for those wishing to follow up on topics introduced here. Among his more valuable observations, Lee notes that no research is so innocuous that 'sensitivity' is not a concern. His point is a crucial one. . . . He presents extensive expositions on how to resolve the particular problems that those undertaking sensitive research may encounter. . . . A pragmatic, traditional approach to the subject matter." --Contemporary Sociology "This monograph is a great follow-up to another Sage book: Researching Sensitive Topics (edited by Raymond M. Lee along with Claire Renzetti). --Prepublication Review in Clinical Gerontologist "Raymond M. Lee's introduction . . . is timely and welcome. . . . [The book] is useful because it brings together material that is rather disparate in the literature on social science methodology. This will be useful for Ph.D. students and those embarking on field research for the first time." --The Times Higher For researchers looking for a comprehensive guide to the methodological, ethical, and practical issues involved in undertaking research on sensitive topics, look no further than Doing Research on Sensitive Topics. In this well-written volume, Lee introduces researchers to the subject of sensitive research and addresses the question of what makes research contentious. He considers the relationship between research and issues of social or political power, the capacity of research to encroach on people's lives, and the potential implications researching sensitive topics may have for the researcher. Covering both quantitative and qualitative methods, Lee offers advice on such key questions as the choice of methodologies for sensitive research and the problems of estimating the size of hidden populations. He also examines the political and ethical problems inherent in the relations between the researcher and the researched, and in the disclosure, dissemination, and publication of research.
 
Introduction
 
Limits on Inquiry
 
Estimating the Size of Hidden Populations
 
Sampling Rare or Deviant Populations
 
Asking Sensitive Questions on Surveys
 
Asking Sensitive Questions
Interviewing

 
 
The Access Process in Research on Sensitive Topics
 
Covert, Adversarial and Collaborative Research
 
Handling Sensitive Data
 
Disclosure and Dissemination in Research on Sensitive Topics
 
Conclusion

`Raymond Lee's introduction to conducting research on sensitive topics is timely and welcome, given the increased expectation that social scientists will research subjects of immediate relevance to practical policy issues. In principle, all such research topics may be regarded as sensitive, and in this sense Lee's book has a wider applicability than the title immediately suggests... these chapters provide a thorough, clear and careful discussion of some complex and important issues in the conduct of sensitive research... Lee's book is useful because it brings together material that is rather disparate in the literature on social science methodology. This will be particularly useful for PhD students and those embarking on field research for the first time. More experienced researchers will find the principal value to be the codification of issues relating to sensitivity. Ideally, this should foster an appreciation that these issues cannot be dealt with in an ad hoc fashion, as they often are.' - The Times Higher Education Supplement

`The book performs a valuable information-gathering function, providing a comprehensive summary of the sprawling methodological literature from the perspective of its central theme. The amount of literature covered here is impressive. The bibliography contains around 700 items. Fortunately, the book's index makes it possible to locate the pages on which particular authors' views are discussed.... This work is written to be accessible by general readers, but because of its range and brevity, readers possessing some knowledge of sociological research will have an advantage. Although there is an evaluative aspect to the discussion, the approach is generally cautious and balanced. Wisely, the author does not attempt to simplify the debate, but presents a range of perspectives on controversial questions, letting each make its own case and occasionally adding his own commentary.' - Library and Information Science Research

`The author's second goal is first addressed by examining the limits on inquiry into matters considered sensitive (chapter 2), and then by considering the ethical, political, and legal implications of the methodological approaches discussed throughout the remaining chapters. For the most part, the author covers these important and often delicate issues in a thorough, balanced, sensitive, and scholarly manner, calling upon over 600 references. Although the research situations addressed by the book are restricted almost exclusively to the discipline of sociology, many of the issues raised have relevance not only to other areas of the behavioral sciences, but to biomedical research as well.' - The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

`Lee's book is interesting, thorough, clearly written and widely referenced, using plenty of examples to make sensitive situations accessible to readers who wish to prepare themselves for doing sensitive research.... Since Lee's treatment does not fall into the trap of narrowness, it is relevant beyond the narrow constituency of those who intend to do research into sensitive topics. I would go so far as to say that most relevant research topics are potentially sensitive to at least some of those involved, and most researchers will have something to learn from this book' - British Journal of Psychology

`This is an important book that deserves careful study' - Journal of Communication

Raymond M Lee

Raymond M. Lee is an Emeritus Professor of Social Research Methods at Royal Holloway University of London. He has written extensively about a range of methodological topics. These include the problems and issues involved in research on “sensitive” topics, research in physically dangerous environments, the use of unobtrusive measures, and the role of new technologies in the research process. His current research focuses on the historical development of interviewing techniques. More About Author