It's unusual to see Honours students co-authoring papers published in high-ranking academic journals, but five taking an Otago Sociology Honours level ethics class achieved just that.
Louisa Choe, Rachel Shaw, David Wither, Adam Doesberg, and Amy Foster co-authored a paper with their Qualitative Research Ethics lecturer, Sociology's Associate Professor Martin Tolich, which was published in the International Journal of Social Research Methodology late last year.
Louisa (now a Sociology PhD candidate) recalls, “In our first lecture Martin turned on a tape recorder without asking. It was a shock, but to our credit we collectively resolved the conundrum. He wanted us to experience the uneasiness of an ethical dilemma. For the paper Martin asked us to analyse two sociology texts and we found ethical mistakes in them that put the researcher in danger and the participants in danger, too. He asked us to follow our gut feeling in identifying the issues – what does it mean to be ethical and to practice research ethics?”
Different teaching strategy
Associate Professor Tolich says the paper, entitled Teaching research ethics as active learning: reading Venkatesh and Goffman as curriculum resources, demonstrates a different teaching strategy where, rather than being taught ethics in a set/principled way, the students own knowledge enabled them to successfully locate core ethical issues within the two texts.
Rachel (now a Gender Studies Masters student) says, “It was a great opportunity. It improved my critical thinking. Working collaboratively with other students and closely with somebody [Associate Professor Tolich] who has published many articles before was awesome to be a part of.”