Working reflexively with ethical complexity in narrative research with disadvantaged young people

Sarah Kearns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


This article draws on the author’s experience of a narrative inquiry project with young people who were designated within the policy context in Scotland as at risk of social exclusion and in need of ‘More Choices, More Chances’. The project explored how the young people’s narratives of transition integrated the concept of ‘critical moments’, namely how the complex interplay between self and social structures was seen to be embedded at key transitional stages. The relevance of professional support was also examined through engaging with themes of identity construction and inclusion at these ‘moments’, and through highlighting choices and constraints to choice as the overarching theme.
This article focuses on the methodological dimensions of the research through the lens of ethical practice and social justice, interrogating notions of researcher reflexivity, empowerment, authenticity and transferability in accessing and representing the marginalized ‘voices’ of the participants, and exploring the ethical dilemmas which arose in this process. The use of visual tools to prompt and represent the young people’s narratives is examined in the light of the interweaving of substantive and participatory aims. In conclusion key questions are posed in relation to how far the research may contribute to a social justice agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-521
Number of pages20
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number4
Early online date13 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • ethics
  • identity
  • narrative
  • reflexivity
  • young people


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