This chapter is overview to some of the ethical considerations involved in doing any kind of research, including action research and participatory research. I certainly don’t mean to provide any recipes for addressing ethical dilemmas and decision-making, but I do hope to suggest some ideas to inform, and guidelines that may be valuable food for thought. Most importantly, we should strive to be mindful and reflective of how ethical considerations may influence our action research, and how our decisions may result in consequences for better and/or for worse. It is not possible to be value-free. Ethical problems are indeed more likely to arise if we are unaware of the ways in which our values impact our action research. Ideally, the purposes of any action research effort are informed and guided by our values, although hopefully also, not limited by our values. A transformative approach also requires that we question, re-evaluate, and in some cases, reformulate either the specific purposes of our project, or even the larger values that led to our initially stated purposes.
This chapter also addresses some ethical problems that arise when certain, key values—acknowledged widely by most scholars, professionals and “ordinary” citizens—are not embraced and used in evaluating the details of our action research aims and activities. These values, and the strategies for assuring that we attend to them, are discussed in the first two sections, on “Ethical issues in protecting research participants” and “Ethical issues in formulating the purposes and design of an action research project.” The last section of this chapter takes on bigger picture concerns of the “social responsibilities” of our pursuing transformative action research. That discussion is only a brief introduction to some of the value-issues that I believe ideally should inform any action research effort. It is not in any way comprehensive but is meant to stimulate further thought on this extremely important matter.