Reflections on ethical dilemmas in working with so-called ‘vulnerable’ and ‘hard-to-reach’ groups: experiences from the Foodways and Futures project

Karolina Gombert, Flora Douglas, Karen McArdle, Sandra Carlisle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article reflects on ethical limitations and dilemmas encountered during fieldwork of the Foodways and Futures project (2013–2016). Foodways and Futures is a qualitative action research project aimed at exploring the food choices of former homeless young people (aged 16–25) in Aberdeenshire. In Scotland, where over 13,000 young people become homeless every year, Foodways and Futures aims to address social injustices as well as the implications of malnutrition in young people. Four interrelated main themes surrounding ethics became apparent during fieldwork: issues of communication, trust, issues with consent forms and power relations. Reflecting on these themes makes it clear that ethical guidelines are not necessarily beneficial for researchers as well as participants, especially if they are part of so-called vulnerable groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-597
Number of pages15
JournalEducational Action Research
Issue number4
Early online date16 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups
  • ethics
  • action research
  • young people
  • food choices
  • power
  • trust
  • consent forms

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