Representing the Lives of Women with Learning Difficulties: Ethical Dilemmas in the Research Process


The Open University, Eldon House, Regent Centre, Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE3 3PW


This paper describes a small scale project, carried out in 1995 in North Tyneside Further Education College, with a group of five young women with learning difficulties, between the ages of 18 and 20. The aim of the project was to create a women-only ‘space’ within the college context, and to use a combination of strategies, i.e. group discussions, one to one interviews and art work, to enable these young women to articulate their personal life stories, present concerns and aspirations for the future. The outcome of the project was the collective production of a booklet; a record of the conversations, discussions and art work produced over a six-week period (Brigham, 1995). The aim of this paper is to engage in a retrospective reflection upon the ethical dilemmas embedded in the research process and the tensions inherent in representing the lives of these young women.