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The Search for an Autoethnographic Ethic

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posted on 2023-01-18, 16:14 authored by Stephen Andrew
Submission note: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Science (Counselling and Psychotherapy) to the School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

This project arose out of ethical concerns I encountered while writing an autoethnographic account of my relational history. Turning to the autoethnographic literature for assistance, I found great variance in the principles and guidelines used by autoethnographers as they conducted research, making the ethics of this method somewhat inconsistent and unclear. In response to this dilemma, I explore key aspects of the autoethnographic method, and create a philosophically-based, ethical guide for autoethnography. Much of this exploration is charted in an autoethnographic style, drawing on autobiography, philosophy, and poetry. I consider possible philosophical bases for a new autoethnographic ethic and propose a framework for critiquing autoethnographic research by using two grids developed as filters for autoethnographic text. The first grid combines the philosophical duties of intuitionism with three key aspects of autoethnographic methodology (the need to tell a story, the potential for this story to adversely impact others, and the inherent strengths and weakness of the autoethnographic method). The second grid provides a way to pinpoint individuals and groups in the text that were at greatest risk or being exposed or harmed. I then test the viability of this new ethical frame on three pieces of my autoethnographic writing that explore my relational history, my experience of the Black Saturday bushfires and a motor vehicle accident. These worked examples suggest that the proposed process can successfully isolate ethically questionable text, and provide a coherent, practical method to rework and improve the ethical standard of this material.


Center or Department

College of Science, Health and Engineering. School of Psychology and Public Health.

Thesis type

  • Doctorate

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


Rights Statement

The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over the content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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