Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 291–299 | Cite as

Rapport and respect: negotiating ethical relations between researcher and participant

Scientific contribution


Qualitative research is largely dependent on building good interpersonal relations between researcher and participant. This is necessary for generating rich data, while at the same time ensuring respect is maintained between researcher and participant. We argue for a better understanding of researcher–participant relations in research practice. Codes of ethics, although important, do not address these kinds of ethical challenges. Negotiating the ethical relations between researcher and participant is paramount in maintaining ethical rigour in qualitative research. In this paper we propose concepts that can assist in understanding how the ethics of research relations are negotiated in practice; the ‘zone of the untouchable’ from the Danish philosopher, Løgstrup, is combined with the notion of ‘ethical mindfulness’. We argue how and why these concepts in tandem can heighten awareness and offer ways to address the ethically important moments in research.


Ethics in qualitative research Rapport Respect in research 



We are indebted to Lynn Gillam for her close reading of the paper and her insightful comments. We are also grateful for the helpful comments of the two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Health and Society, School of Population HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Nursing and Health Sciences, Section for Health Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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