Ethics in the Field by Rebeccah Onwong’a

There are few challenges I have encountered while working in the slums that I would like us to discuss. First, it is important to note that slums vary in one way or the other. For example in Dandora slum, it is not easy to get information because the residents fear talking to strangers. This is because the the gangs in the slums forbid them from talking to strangers and anybody who is seen talking to strangers is “disciplined”. On the other hand, in Kibera slum nobody cares about strangers. So far, I have not heard of any gang operating in the slum. The problem in Kibera is that nobody is willing to volunteer information for free. The informants always insist that you have to give them lunch. They argue that they use their time to take you through the slum.They say that this time could be used to engage in other income generating activities. It is surprising that even the idle ones insist on the “ lunch”. This has forced me on several occasions to hide my identity as a project researcher. Most of the time I pretend to be a college student to avoid being asked for money. It is in this context that I would like us to discuss if it is ethical to lie or give lunch to get the information you want. While responding to the question, it is important bear in mind that if you don’t lie or give lunch, you might not get the information you want.

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Posted in Research Methods
One comment on “Ethics in the Field by Rebeccah Onwong’a
  1. Job Mwaura says:

    Thanks Rebecca for strating this debate. It is quite a challege while negotiating ethics in research. Ethical dilema is an issue that faces many researchers. In my view, not revealing your true identity to the research respondents and not revealing to them your intentions is unethical in research. Perhaps, you should first establish rapport with respindents by telling them about the project and telling them how they would benefit in it. Lying to them will only make things worse interms of TRUST, and especially when they realise later that you were untruthful. If someone refuses to be a respindent, perhaps dropping the person and get another would be prefered.

    Giving the respondents lunch should be at the very end of your research so as not to jeopardise the research.

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