Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese students studying in doctoral and postgraduate programmes outside of China numbered over 600,000 (2017). A number of these students may return to China to gather data. This article explores tensions between compliance with the bounds of formal ethical approval and further research opportunities that may arise in the field of one’s home country while studying a PhD enrolled in New Zealand. It also reports on negotiation in approaches between socio-cultural contexts of doctoral study in New Zealand and data gathering in China by acknowledging the tensions using two decision-making experiences in one Chinese doctoral scholar’s journey of collecting data ‘at home’. One is the negotiation of the ethics of situations and the other is how combined reflective journaling and timely supervisor feedback supported researcher decision-making. Some recommendations to new researchers who are going to collect data from their home country are shared.
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