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Qualitative migration research ethics: a roadmap for migration scholars

Ricard Zapata-Barrero (Department of Social and Political Science, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain)
Evren Yalaz (Department of Social and Political Science, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 24 June 2020

Issue publication date: 14 July 2020




This article aims to set a roadmap for an ethical programme, which we call “qualitative migration research ethics” (QMRE). It is a scoping review that maps current ethical challenges that migration scholars often face and provide guidance, while acknowledging the fact that many researchers deal with ethical issues on a case-by-case basis.


By connecting three lines of debates – ethics in social sciences, in qualitative research and in migration studies – this article addresses the following core questions: What are the particular ethical dilemmas in qualitative migration research (QMR)? How do migration researchers deal with these ethical dilemmas? What is the role of universal ethical codes of conduct and case-by-case ethical considerations in dealing with particular situations?


This review demonstrates that special aspects of migration research context, e.g. participants' mobility, potential vulnerability and migration as a politicized issue as well as the flexible and exploratory nature of qualitative research require particular ethical awareness that cannot be sufficiently addressed by standardized guidelines.


It proposes that efforts to raise ethical awareness must go beyond researchers' ethical confessions or blind adherence to pre-fixed guidance. Researchers must have critical “ethical radar” before, during and after their fieldwork; not only while working on extreme and vulnerable cases but also while doing all kind of research regardless of the level of vulnerability. Last but not least, this article claims the need for including critical ethical consciousness substantially in higher education programmes at the very beginning of the research career.



Zapata-Barrero, R. and Yalaz, E. (2020), "Qualitative migration research ethics: a roadmap for migration scholars", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 269-279.



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