Beyond 'do no harm': The challenge of constructing ethical relationships in refugee research

Catriona Mackenzie*, Christopher McDowell, Eileen Pittaway

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

308 Citations (Scopus)


This paper highlights some of the central ethical challenges involved in undertaking social science research with refugees in conflict and crisis situations. It focuses on two main sets of challenges: first, the difficulties of constructing an ethical consent process and obtaining genuinely informed consent; and second, taking fully into account and responding to refugee participants-capacities for autonomy. The authors also discuss the challenges involved in applying the central normative principles governing ethics review processes-the principles of beneficence, integrity, respect for persons, autonomy and justice-to the context of refugee research. It is argued that researchers should seek ways to move beyond harm minimization as a standard for ethical research and recognize an obligation to design and conduct research projects that aim to bring about reciprocal benefits for refugee participants and/or communities. Some of the methodological issues raised by this analysis are discussed in the conclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-319
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


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