How can you protect the confidentiality of respondents in a research process?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Provide a consent form to sign, explain that the data collected will be treated confidentially (unless otherwise requested by the participant) and that all raw data (recording, notes, etc.) will be destroyed after the results have been analyzed.
  2. Explain that contact details and factual data (age, background or time spent in a city or in the community) will not be used to identify people, but to qualify the sample (the number of elders, educated people, hunters, etc.).
  3. Keep people’s “identifying” information apart from data. With individual interviews, only the researcher should know who said what and when. No one should be able to link interviewees to content or information such as age. For example, interviews can be numbered and only the researcher has access to the list linking numbers to the names of the people interviewed.
  1. Group interviews complicate matters further because several people hear each other’s opinions. Before beginning the group interview, specify that whatever is said in the group cannot be reported afterwards. The researcher also promises not to divulge in her report the identity of people who make statements. Therefore, instead of writing “Mary said…,” you would put down “One or many participants said…”
  2. When disseminating results, one possible course of action is to mix the content so that interviewees cannot be identified. For example, elders said this and youth said that. In a small community, it is best to broaden categories. To mention an elderly woman of 85 who was born in the woods will undoubtedly make her too easily identifiable.
  3. Some information may be culturally sensitive (secret or sacred). Ask permission from the interviewee or even from the community’s spiritual leaders to use this information, and at the same time explain how it will be used and disseminated.