Ethics of Fieldwork


Students working with community partners are not professional social workers or researchers, although they may be training for these professions. Even so, many of the issues that arise in community partnerships can be described as issues of professionalism broadly understood.

Consider the Following:

  • You will be seen as an ambassador from Bryn Mawr College.
    • Remember that you will be a representative of Bryn Mawr College in the fieldsite. Future collaborations as well as our current relationships within the community will be influenced by the relationships you develop at your fieldsite.
  • Realistic expectations make for better partnerships.
    • Campus partners can be overly optimistic, promising too much. Let’s make a difference. But let’s also remember that successful completion of goals feels good and does good. Like colleges, community agencies have limited resources, and should not be investing in projects that will not yield results.
    • In addition, disappointing community members can make some individuals less likely to seek help from agencies. It can also make campus-community partnerships more difficult to sustain and establish in the future.
  • Students should consider what they are and are not qualified to do.
    • Occasionally, students might be asked to perform duties at their community placement beyond their training. Sometimes students volunteer for such duties. For instance, students may want to offer crisis counseling or perform research activities that have not been approved. This is not OK. As always, communication with supervisor can help avoid inappropriate situations.
  • Service and research are not investigative reporting—keep information confidential.
    • Working with community partners exposes us to a great deal of private information about individuals and organizations. Without express permission, we may not make this information public by posting photos on the internet or writing about it for a newspaper. These activities can violate the trust of the community, can put individuals at risk (see next section), and can violate federal regulations concerning research on human subjects.