Ethical ‘mess’ in co-produced research: Reflections from a U.K.- based case study

Helen Thomas-Hughes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Co-producing research is complex and messy. This paper draws on Tina Cook’s argument for the systematic inclusion of ‘mess’ in research accounts as a conceptual framework through which to articulate areas of ethical mess from within a co-produced research project. Through narrating the ‘messy’ ethical complications the paper illustrates a number of specific ethical risks when coproducing research; particularly when working with young people. The paper provides valuable insight into ethical tensions that can emerge when using a co-produced methodology and will be informative for future researchers negotiating their own co-produced research projects. The paper argues for the systematic inclusion of mess in the accounting of participatory research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-242
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Issue number2
Early online date28 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2018


  • Co-production
  • Confidentiality
  • Data storage
  • Ethics
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Mess
  • Participatory research
  • Young people


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