Accessibility statement

The Promise and Perils of Researching Sensitive Issues

Tuesday 20 November 2018, 9.00AM to 6.00pm

Speaker(s): Dr Donna Poade (University of Exeter)

Research concerning sensitive and emotionally demanding issues is vital but challenging work in which the onus of care tends to be placed directly on the researcher. These issues may be internal or external, ethical or emotional, or concern the researcher or participant.

As stated in the BSA Statement of Ethical Practice (2017, §12) as researchers we have a ‘responsibility to ensure that the physical, social and psychological well-being of research participants is not adversely affected by the research’. As such, it is the aim of this one-day symposium to offer an opportunity to consider, in a safe and supportive environment of peers, the challenges presented in the conducting of sensitive research, for both participant and researcher, on issues concerning, but not limited to: abuse, atrocity, death, dying, gender, grief, loss, marginalisation, mental health, violence, racism(s) self-harm, sexuality, stigma, trauma and xenophobia(s). 


  • Session I - Sensitivity as Data
      • Jamie Khoo (University of York), Beauty and the Hidden Beasts: The potential for healing in the unexpected discussion of sensitive issues in interviews.
      • Adnan Mouhiddin (University of Surrey), Attach or Detach: Emotions and researching devastated communities.
      • Carol Robinson (University of York), Ethically Important Moments as data in Researching Responses to Death and Dying in Prison.
  • Session II - Coping & Survival
      • Dr Katie Deverell (University of Westminster), Sex, Death and Housework: Reflections on researching sensitive topics.
      • Ada Achinanya (University of Sheffield), Exploring Women’s Experiences with Infertility: The unspoken vulnerabilities.
  • Session III - Marginalisation & Voice
      • Christina Carmichael (University of East Anglia), Accessing, Engaging and Representing Marginalised ‘Voices’: Reflections from a homelessness research study.
      • Louise Isham (University of Birmingham), Reflections on Engaging with an Advisory Network in the Context of a ‘Sensitive’ Research Study.
      • Christine Jackson-Taylor (University of York), Responsibility to Participants and Self.
  • Session IV - The Place of the Researcher
      • Vivian Asimos (Durham University), ‘I Felt Her in My Throat”: Problematizing anthropological approaches of extraordinary experiences of death.
      • Chloe Gott (University of Kent), Crying in the Library: The implications of doing traumatic research in public and private.
      • Elspeth Wilson (Trinity College Dublin), The Researcher in the Research: Managing emotions and expectations within feminist research practice.
  • Session V - Emotion Work, Labour & Sensitivity
      • Dr Sharon Mallon (Open University), What is Sensitive about Sensitive Research? The sensitive researcher’s perspective.
      • Vicky Meaby (Durham University), Walking an Ethical Tightrope: Exploring loss with young people who offend.
      • Rodica Arpasanu (Manchester Metropolitan University), Emotional Geographies: Reflections on the challenges inherited in conducting in depth qualitative research on mortality in the context of death tourism.

Registration is now open for this event at £5.00 (BSA Members) and £15.00 (Non-Members). Book your place here. 

The symposium will be held at the University of York and is being convened by Matt Coward and Daniel Robins. It is generously supported by the British Sociological Association’s Postgraduate Forum regional day event fund. 

Location: University of York