Being Human—Empathy and the Role of the Academic Researcher


This case study explores the challenges encountered in undertaking a qualitative study of Brisbane residents who experienced the 2011 flood. The case study provides an overview of the research design and then steps the reader through a variety of theoretical considerations and logistical issues encountered by the author in the process of completing the research. The case study provides a reflection on the experience of translating research ethics to practice, when the consideration of ethics literature ceases to be about getting an ethics approval and becomes the tools to navigate your personal interaction with your subjects. The case touches on the emotional impact on the researcher of conducting research and how reflective practice is a critical tool to inform ethical behavior. Finally, the case study presents the author’s personal observations about how to balance the process of researching against concerns of exploiting subjects, finding that empathy and empathetic practice provide a bridge between ethics in the abstract and the practice of interviewing real people.

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