The aim of the paper is to discuss the ethical issues related to financial payments. The article compares the concerns and experiences of researchers who did not pay the participants with the concerns and experiences of researchers who paid the participants. It draws on in-depth interviews with Polish social researchers who conducted qualitative research with vulnerable participants. The paper indicates that researchers who did not pay the participants believed that financial payment reduces the researcher’s relationship with informants to an economic transaction. For this reason, they had more ethical concerns about paying than researchers who did pay. My interviewees suggest that in some cases financial payment may cause discomfort to the researcher or informants, compromise the anonymity of participants, and cause the additional risk of harm. By analysing various concerns related to financial payment, the article may contribute to raising researchers’ awareness of possible risks related to cash payment and, as a consequence, can help them to make their own informed decisions, especially as there are few guidelines in this area.


Cash Payment, Qualitative Social Research, In-depth interviews, Vulnerable Participants, Research Ethics

Author Bio(s)

Adrianna Surmiak is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Sociology of Morality and General Axiology at the University of Warsaw in Poland. She holds an MA in sociology and a PhD in cultural anthropology. Her main research interests include qualitative research ethics, methodology and sex working. Please direct correspondence to adriannasurmiak@gmail.com.


Funding for this research was provided by a grant from the National Science Centre, Poland (2016/20/S/HS6/00435).

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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