Qualitative research in sport sciences: is the biomedical ethics model applicable?

Steve Olivier, Lesley Fishwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research in sports science has historically been grounded in positivist traditions. This means that ethics committees may not be adequately sensitized to the ethical problems posed by qualitative research. Qualitative researchers may thus be disadvantaged in the research approval process. Our paper argues that the traditional biomedical ethics model may not always be appropriate in evaluating qualitative proposals. Due to the nature of its methods, qualitative work may have emergent and ongoing ethical issues that require consultation and resolution. We argue that, contrary to the judgements of many ethics committees, methods such as deception and covert observation can be justified if certain conditions are met. In reaffirming a commitment to the overarching ethical principle of respect for persons, we conclude that researchers need to recognize and plan for ethical issues in their work. Likewise, ethics committees need to recognize that qualitative work poses unique problems, but that these need not necessarily be insurmountable obstacles to project approval.
Original languageEnglish
JournalForum, Qualitative Social Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • ethics
  • quantitative research
  • qualitative research
  • ethics committees


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