Research ethics in a multilingual world: A guide to reflecting on language decisions in all disciplines

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Gabriela Meier
Paulette Birgitte van der Voet
Tian Yan


Doing research in a globalized context – regardless of the discipline – requires language decisions at different stages of the research process. Many of these language decisions have ethical implications. Existing literature and ethical guidance tend to focus on ethical concerns that arise in communication with participants who use a language different from the main research language. As this article shows, language decisions with potential ethical implications can occur in many additional ways. Two questions guided this work: how do language decisions and research ethics intersect at different stages of the research process, and what potential harm is related to language decisions and how can such concerns be mitigated? Relevant literature – combined with practical research experiences – show that language decisions can potentially result in harm at the conception stage of research projects, when working with participants, during data analysis, interpretation, and dissemination, as well as when managing a research project. Thus, the article highlights that the role of language-related ethical dilemmas is not only organizational (e.g., ensuring participants can understand what the research is about), but also social (e.g., developing trust and relationships in research teams) as well as ideological (e.g., awareness of power structures and diverse worldviews). In order to support researchers in globalized contexts, this article offers a reflective framework that complements regulatory guidance issued by ethical bodies and facilitates a deeper awareness of ethical implications related to language decisions in a multilingual world.


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Meier, Gabriela, Paulette Birgitte van der Voet, and Tian Yan. 2024. “Research Ethics in a Multilingual World: A Guide to Reflecting on Language Decisions in All Disciplines”. Diametros 21 (80):38-58.
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