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Behind closed doors: negotiating the Ethical Borgs in qualitative inquiry

Marcelle Cacciattolo (Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)
Mark Vicars (Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)
Tarquam McKenna (Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




The Ethical Borgs are a fictional panel of a set of people who have the task of attending to the manner in which research “should” occur. The scenario is a series of “fictionalised encounters” between two researchers presenting their research proposals to the panel for approval. The purpose of this paper is to revisit and play out two researchers’ individual and collective experiences of gaining ethical clearance as emergent researchers. The tension of their place and status in academia drives their identity.


This paper is presented in the form of a short play. The focus is on the manner in which the performance of the academic self as researcher can be impeded or assisted by the deliberations of the “Ethical Borgs”. These fictional encounters demonstrate the tension of being located in the in-between worlds of researchers in-waiting who need to negotiate their roles and whose ethical anxieties are critiqued through the lens of the “naive inquirer” the “too hard don’t touch inquirer” and the “medicalised” lens inquirer.


The major themes examined in this paper address how the Ethical Borgs increasingly exercise power and have authority to authorise social inquiry.


Questions that are also raised include what academic approval is required to inquire? How does a naive inquirer manoeuvre his or her way through institutionalised and bureaucratic procedures?



Cacciattolo, M., Vicars, M. and McKenna, T. (2015), "Behind closed doors: negotiating the Ethical Borgs in qualitative inquiry", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 98-108.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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