The Indirect Approach: Prospects, craft and ethical considerations

Peter Hornbæk Frostholm, Kathrine Bordevich

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Peter Hornbæk Frostholm (VIA University College), Kathrine Bordevich (University of South-Eastern Norway) National perspective: Norway, UK and Denmark With numerous interviews with young people conducted through the project’s interview method: The Indirect Approach (Moshuus & Eide, 2016), within the first cycle of the project, we can now present in depth analysis of the prospects and the practical craftsmanship behind the indirect approach and reflect upon some of the research ethical implications that occurred throughout the first cycle of MaCE. The main methodological approach used for data collecting in MaCE; The Indirect Approach draws on an ethnographic biographical framework that might evoke notions of similar methodological approaches like the unstructured interview (Tanggaard & Brinkman, 2010) and life story narratives (Goodson & Adair, 2007) Ideally, the research situation should take the form of storytelling with the participant as the storyteller, making whatever he or she chooses to emphasise guide the conversation. Through our analysis of the practical craftmanship behind the method, we found that an ongoing negotiation of the agenda with the interview and the methodology used, were sometimes needed throughout our short time interviewing the young people, because the whole interview situation sometimes left participants slightly confused about the aim of the project or the idea of being featured in academic papers. The key elements in that process turned out to be demystification along with an open-minded approach toward the informants (Frostholm, 2019). Through empirical examples drawn from the data sets in MaCE, this presentation furthermore explores the research ethical implications when conducting ethnographic interviews with possibly vulnerable and marginalised young people. We argue that the methodological reflections on research ethics come down to a discussion on navigating through dilemmas regarding children’s and young people’s right to an actual voice in research. Through the term ethical situationism (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007), we argue that researchers must undertake ethical judgements and deal with ethical considerations on the go – and in that sense act ethically according to context while interviewing. Not everything can be planned for and must therefore be dealt with on the go, we argue (Frostholm, 2019). References: Frostholm, P. H. (2019) Exploring young people's voices in ethnographic research: remarks on the ethical implications of ethnographic interviews with marginalised young people. In: The Journal of Youth Voices in Education: Methods Theory Practice, 1(1), pp. 59-65. Goodson, I. & Adair, N. (2007). Life History Interviews: Voice, Research Process and Tales from the Field. I K.A, Petersen, S. Glasdam & V. Lorentzen (eds.). Livshistorieforskning og Kvalitative Interview. Forlaget PUC. Hammersley, M. & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography: Principles in Practice. Taylor & Francis Ltd. Tanggaard, L. & Brinkmann S. (2010).Interviewet: Samtalen som forskningsmetode. In: S. Brinkmann & L. Tanggaard (red.), Kvalitative metoder: En grundbog. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Morrow, V. (2008). Ethical Dilemmas in Research with Children and Young People about Their Social Environments. Children’s Geographies 6 (1), 49-61. Moshuus, G. H & Eide, K. (2016). The Indirect Approach: How to Discover Context When Studying Marginal Youth. In: International journal of qualitative methods, vol.15, nr.1, p.1-10
Original languageEnglish
Publication date25 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2020
EventECER 2020 Glasgow: Educational Research (Re)connecting Communities - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Aug 202028 Aug 2020


ConferenceECER 2020 Glasgow
LocationUniversity of Glasgow
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • research designs, theory and method

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