Good Sex Work Research Checklist

Do you want to do research with Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition, or another sex worker group?

Here are the criteria that we look at when deciding whether or not to get involved with research/ers.


How to use the tool

  • If you can, find a way to print out the PDF version of the tool.
  • If you don’t have access to a printer, the content of the checklist is below. Go through the criteria and see if your project has more ‘undesirable’ traits or more ‘great’ ones.
    • More ‘Undesirable’? Address the undesirable aspects, and then use the tool again.
    • More ‘Great’? Contact us!


An undesirable project

  • Introduction/overview of the project: The project description seems vague or unclear, or feels unsatisfying. It does not indicate the kinds of questions to be asked, or the kinds of information participants have to provide.
  • Outline of benefits to participants: No indication of how the study will benefit the participants and/or sex workers living in our city.
  • Outline of risks to participants: No risks are identified, or an overly basic and/or poorly thought-out list of potential risks to study participants. (Remember that studies that solicit personal health information, personal experiences of stigma, exclusion, and/or violence can leave participants feeling emotionally rough, triggered, isolated, and/or very alone. If studies don’t acknowledge and account for these risks, they are bad studies.)
  • Protection of privacy/anonymity: No indication of how participant privacy/anonymity will be protected.
  • Accessibility of findings, and timeline: No indication of how participants and/or communities will be able to access the findings once the project is over. Limited or no information about timelines.
  • Project funding: The project is funded by an organization with a clear anti-sex work policy, or that has been involved with anti-sex work(er) actions in the past.
  • Project team: The project is undertaken or supervised by a researcher(s) who has been involved in anti-sex work legal cases, activism, or research.
  • Appropriateness of questions: The project asks for deeply personal information about health, children or dependent family members, sexual practices, experiences of violence, etc., without demonstrating how this information is essential to the project.
  • Remuneration (may be excused for projects led by students without funds): The project offers no form of remuneration (cash, a gift card, or a donation, for example) in exchange for participants’ time and the sharing of experiences and/or expertise.
  • Ethics submission without prior consultation: The project has already moved ahead with an ethics submission (and possibly approval), even though it is a poor study or project (i.e. it has none or only a few of the criteria for a great study).


A great project

  • Introduction/overview of the project: Sex workers and/or sex worker groups respectfully approached. The project description is clear about the goals, questions, funding, and kinds of information participants will have to provide.
  • Outline of benefits to participants: The benefits are clearly outlined, and these are real benefits to participants and/or to our sex work communities. Benefits will be more than just “contributing to knowledge.”
  • Outline of risks to participants: Any anticipated risks to participants and/or sex work communities, however small, are outlined and the benefits of the project justify the risks to participants. (Remember that risks increase the more personal the questions are. The researcher acknowledges this and indicates how they will help to address any risks that arise. (This could mean giving questions in advance, having peers do the interviews, providing a list of local sex work-friendly support services, having a support worker or elder close by if needed, etc.))
  • Protection of privacy/anonymity: The project makes clear that participant privacy or anonymity will be protected, and how.
  • Accessibility of findings, and timeline: Clear indication of how and when results will be accessible to participants and/or communities. Research can seem to proceed at a very slow pace, but the researcher is upfront about timelines.
  • Project funding: The project is funded by an organization with a pro-sex work policy, or with a history of involvement in actions that support sex worker communities.
  • Project team: The project team includes a sex worker research partner or consultant who liaises with sex worker communities.
  • Appropriateness of questions: If the project requires the sharing of personal information, it is made clear why and how the sharing of such information is necessary and how participants will be supported during and after such sharing.
  • Remuneration (may be excused for projects led by students without funds): The project offers appropriate remuneration for people’s time.
  • Ethics submission without prior consultation: The project has yet to apply for ethics, and the researcher is working with sex worker communities to help shape the study, OR the project has ethics approval, but with the ability for the researcher to collaborate with sex worker communities to help shape/finalize the project.