Risk to Researchers in Qualitative Research on Sensitive Topics: Issues and Strategies


Traditionally, risk assessments in research have been limited to examining the risks to the research participants. Although doing so is appropriate and important, there is growing recognition that undertaking research can pose risks to researchers as well. A grounded theory study involving a range of researchers who had undertaken qualitative health research on a sensitive topic was completed. Analysis of the in-depth, face-to-face unstructured individual interviews with 30 Australian public health researchers provided evidence that researchers do confront a number of physical and emotional risks when undertaking research. Training, preparation, and supervision must be taken into account so that the risk to researchers can be minimized. Researchers need to consider occupational health and safety issues in designing research projects that deal with physical and emotional risks. Recommendations for professional supervision, policy development, and minimum training standards for researchers are provided.