The funders that we interviewed highlighted the importance of thinking ‘what if’ – of taking time to try and anticipate the unintended consequences of your research. Of course, this depends very much on the topic you are researching, but you need to think about what to do if you do accidentally cause distress to your research respondents through your questions. Even if you think it’s unlikely, it can be difficult to predict what causes people to become upset. Is it ever ok for people to cry? If they do, do you know how you will respond? What if they get angry with you?
If I went to a doctor and said “Tell me how to diagnose a patient,” or I went to a judge and said “Tell me how to interpret the law,” or I went to an artist and said “Tell me how to be creative,” do you think they would be able give me a few sentences that completely answer my question and prepare me for professional work as a doctor, judge, or artist? If they had spent years as students learning their subject matter, and additional years teaching or writing a textbook on their specialty, they might be very good in their professions but I’d bet they’d all find it tough to answer such a question in any meaningful way.