As novice researchers, doctoral students undertaking qualitative research become well-versed in strategies that should be adopted to minimise risk to participants. But what happens when a researcher is confronted with the complex, emotional account of a participant? Despite the consistent emphasis on participant safety, many doctoral students are not explicitly prompted to consider how they will negotiate their own emotional wellbeing throughout the research process. This is particularly important when conducting qualitative research with vulnerable populations. In these situations, sensitive and difficult topics are often discussed, with numerous risks to participants and researchers alike. However, concern for researcher wellbeing is seemingly ignored or addressed in an ad-hoc manner across all levels of the research process. This oversight is reinforced by ethics applications that require a compelling response surrounding potential burdens to participants, without prompting any explicit consideration of those individuals actually undertaking the research. While previous research acknowledges multiple vulnerabilities of doctoral students, with respect to generic anxiety and exhaustion, we suggest that researcher wellbeing might be further compromised due to the nature of the study. In this paper, we argue that current research training processes and university support structures are generally not sufficiently robust to protect novice researchers and participants and call for advances in research and practices to this end.


Researcher Wellbeing, Vulnerability, Qualitative Research

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Stefania Velardo is a Health Lecturer in the College of Education, Psychology, and Social Work at Flinders University. She is interested in qualitative research methods that capture people's perspectives on matters relating to their health and wellbeing. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: stefania.velardo@flinders.edu.au.

Dr. Sam Elliott is a Lecturer in Sport, Health and Physical Activity in the College of Education, Psychology, and Social Work at Flinders University. He teaches across a range of areas in psychology, sociology, and pedagogy as they relate to sport, physical education, and physical activity. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: sam.elliott@flinders.edu.au.


We wish to thank the Editor and Reviewers for their extensive feedback, encouragement and support.

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