Doing sensitive research: what challenges do qualitative researchers face?


Doing sensitive research: what challenges do qualitative researchers face?


Dickson-Swift V


Qualitative Research




As health researchers we need to investigate a wide range of topics to enhance our understanding of the many issues that affect health and well-being in today's society. Much of the health research undertaken today involves face-to-face encounters with participants using qualitative methodologies. There is a growing recognition that undertaking qualitative research can pose many difficulties for researchers. However, very little research has focused directly on the experiences of researchers while undertaking qualitative research and the issues that their involvement in the research raises for them. To explore these issues, one-to-one interviews were conducted with 30 qualitative health researchers. A grounded theory analysis revealed that researchers can face a number of challenges while undertaking qualitative research. These include issues relating to rapport development, use of researcher self-disclosure, listening to untold stories, feelings of guilt and vulnerability, leaving the research relationship and researcher exhaustion. These results are discussed and recommendations for researchers involved in qualitative research are made.


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Dickson-Swift V, “Doing sensitive research: what challenges do qualitative researchers face?,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed February 26, 2024,