Category Archives: Occupational Therapy
E is for… Ethics
Before I can start collecting data for my research I need to submit a research proposal to an ethical review board at my university.
The seven principles of ethical research as outlined by the College of Occupational Therapists (2003) are:
Minimising Potential Harm
Honesty, Integrity and Openness
Impartiality and Fairness
Confidentiality and Anonymity
So, as you can see, Ethics isn’t just about not hurting people, though of course that is very important. It is also about ensuring quality of work (e.g. that the methodology matches the aim/research question) and reviewing that even at the start of research the researcher has considered methods of disseminating that research (not just abandoning it in the thesis section of their university library).
I’m just going to highlight a couple of ethical challenges my research presents below. There is much more to consider than just these though.
Ethical challenges in Qualitative research
With qualitative research it can be very difficult at the start of the research to say exactly what the methods will look like because qualitative research often tends to be an interactive process which constantly involves depending on responses from participants. I am lucky in the fact that my university is used to dealing with qualitative research and therefore appreciates that the design will be emergent (Bailliard et al 2013). This is not, however, an excuse for me not to think about the detail. Bailliard et al (2013 p 160) suggest using a road map that highlights a general direction and goal but leaves some flexibility in the route. In terms of using a writing analogy I like to think of this as a rough but flexible plot outline.
When exploring people’s lives there is always the potential to bring up issues that they may find emotive or distressing and so it will be relevant to give advice on counselling services, etc. In fact I think it is important as a qualitative researcher to consider the same for yourself.
Ethical challenges in Autoethnography
When writing autoethnography (as I intend to) you will inevitably identify other people in your life in your writing. How to manage this will be something I need to consider (including issues such as asking them for consent). Even if names are changed, because I am naming myself, people who know me may be able to work out who those people are.
Because I am planning to work with others I need to address their anonymity – do they wish to be named and if so are they aware of potential consequences.
One way round some of these issues may be to create storied amalgams but then this may ‘interrupt’ the flow of the stories told by mixing up or leaving out crucial details that may be vital to developing a fuller understanding of issues.
Some General Practical Considerations
If you are asked to participate in research (I have been a few times now) – do check these things.
You should be given what is generally known as a ‘Participant Information Sheet’ which tells you about the research and what you will be expected to do. You should also be given the opportunity to ask any questions you don’t think have been covered.
Types of information that this commonly includes:
where ethical consent to undertake the research was gained,
details about the researcher and their qualifications,
details about the research aim/questions (though in some cases it may be appropriate to not go into too much depth here in case it influences the outcomes of the study),
details about what will happen to the information you share, e.g. how it will be stored, who will see it, how your confidentiality and anonymity will be protected,
the statement that you are free to withdraw from the study at any time without prejudice (this is especially important if you are participating in a clinical study).
Following reading this you should also be asked to sign a consent form.
Here’s a personal example: I participated in an asthma study where I had allergy testing and sat in a cubicle to try and induce my asthma symptoms. During routine medical checks they discovered a heart murmur and gave me relevant advice to get this all checked. They would have to have considered aspects like this when getting the study agreed. My murmur was all benign in case you were wondering.
Bailliard, A.L., Aldrich, R.M. and Dickie, V.A. (2013) Ethnography and the Transactional Study of Occupation. In Cutchin, M.P., and Dickie, V.A. (eds) (2013) Transactional Perspectives on Occupation. London: Springer, pp. 157 − 168.
College of Occupational Therapists (2003) Research Ethics Guidelines. London: College of Occupational Therapists.
So there we have it a whistle stop tour of research ethics.
Have you ever participated in research – did you receive a participant information sheet? How did you find participating in the research?
Have you ever gone to an ethical review board to conduct research? Can you share any hints or tips?
Saturday 27th October 2012 has been World Occupational Therapy Day and I am writing this in the closing minutes of the day which I celebrated by taking part in the special #OTalk organised by Gillian Crossley with Helen Rushton for the OT Global Day of Service on the role of Occupational Therapy in Public Health. I also attended a virtual classroom discussing Assessment and Social Media delivered by Merrolee Penman with Anita Hamilton. This was a test of the software for Tuesday 30th Virtual OT Conference which has the theme Occupational Balance.
My plan for earlier in the day was to read some of The Casual Vacancy and despite enjoying the first few pages my body decided to let my eyes droop and I had a snooze instead. Then I nipped out to meet some friends. Tomorrow I am staying in!
The OTs at Salford have come up with a fun quiz to review people’s Occupational Balance – they’ve called it Occubuzz and you can find it here – http://www.occubuzz.com/
Not surprisingly I found myself to be occupationally overloaded (hence the daytime snoozing). I decided to use some stick art to investigate why (inspired by the immensely talented Gillian).
I get interested in things really easily and find that I pick up things and then try and balance them along with my desire to watch TV, read, write, sleep etc – my PhD supervisor used the imagery of spinning plates this week which I have borrowed for my pictures.
But there comes a stage where this overload can become too much and things drop, and once you’ve dropped one thing, it can throw the balance of everything else off and you end up with broken plates.
So what I’m trying to do is OT myself and gradually I am putting some of the plates down to one side or sharing them with others. November’s plan is to prioritise creative writing by participating in NaNoWriMo and my PhD. I’ve still got a way to go so I’d call it an evolving process of finding the correct balance (as you can see by from today’s effort ;o) – but I get an extra hour in bed because the clocks go back shortly).
I was planning to write this in time to submit to Linda’s OT Blog Carnival but decided to prioritise and get some sleep. You can find the other wonderful entries here though -it does seem that balance is something that doesn’t come easily in today’s society (and OTs themselves need to work at this too).
So – who here finds themselves overloaded and what do you plan to put down/share?
If you already have great balance please share your secret.
Below is the abstract for the workshop I gave at the College of Occupational Therapists Conference 2012. Please also find attached the copy of my creative controversy blog post that I got people to use to develop ‘found poems’ and the Reflective Stories handout I used with short story and poetry examples from myself and others. Next week’s #occhat on Twitter will be on using creative writing to develop the ‘art’ of occupational therapy. See the post on the #occhat blog for suggestions of preparation.
Reflective Stories: writing creatively for professional and personal development, and wellbeing.
A recent conference paper (Clouston, 2011) highlighted the ‘occupational imbalance’ experienced by occupational therapists (OTs). With the increasing emphasis on Continuing Professional Development (CPD), since the introduction of the Health Professions Council’s audit cycle, this has further increased the perceived load on OTs. Consequently, engaging in CPD can be seen as a chore and reflective writing may be labelled as ‘academic’ work and seen as difficult to complete.
Using creative writing within reflective practice has been documented as, a method of ‘burnout prevention’, a way to ‘reset reality’ (Bradley Smith, 2008) and to release ‘inhibition’ (Nicholls, 2009). One study also suggested that students who engaged with the arts demonstrated more ‘active learning, risk taking, and greater capacity in approaching difficult concepts and problems.’ (Thomas and Mulvey, 2008). Bolton (2010) suggests writing stories can enable access to deeper levels of meaning than writing abstract accounts of an event, because we move from ‘being clever and into being open’ (p.92).
Using two short form writing activities (found poetry and flash fiction) participants
will be introduced to techniques from the literary arts that can enhance their professional development. Ideas such as ‘show not tell’, use of metaphors,
developing characterisation, and so on, will be discussed.
The use of creative writing in reflective practice is proposed as a method that can
be used to enhance professional development and practice to the benefit of service users and colleagues but also as a method of stress reduction and restoring balance to improve our own wellbeing.
Bolton G (2010) Reflective Practice: Writing and professional development, 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage.
Bradley Smith S (2008) This syvlan game: Creative writing and GP wellbeing. Australian Family Physician. 37(6), 461-462.
Clouston T (2011) Worked out and still wanting: finding balance in busy lives. In: Plymouth University (2011) Owning Occupation International Occupational Science Conference. 8-9 September 2011. Plymouth, UK. Plymouth: Plymouth University.
Nicholls S (2009) Beyond expressive writing: models of developmental creative writing. Journal of Health Psychology. 14(2), 171-180.
Thomas E and Mulvey A (2008) Using the arts in teaching and learning: building student capacity for community-based work in health psychology. Journal of Health Psychology. 13(2), 239-250.
Any comments or feedback please leave me a comment – thanks.