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October 2, 2013 - 3N06 Lecture Notes.doc

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

October 2, 2013 Political Science 3N06 Political Science 3N06 2013 Lecture 4b: Research Ethics O CTOBER 2, 2013 General principles governing social scientific research 1. VOLUNTARY PARTICIPATION - Participation in research should be voluntary o It has to be continually voluntary; it has to be clear that they can withdraw at any time. - For participation to be truly voluntary there must informed consent o What does this do to the validity of the kind of data that you get? o What does participation actually entail? o What are the potential risks? o What are the potential costs? o What are the potential rewards? - Informed consent would also appear to require the avoidance of deception o “Do not specifically state the nature of the survey as to change the responses due to ‘informed’ consent” o Some kinds of research requires that people do not know they are being studied;  “Formulation of policy” “leadership dynamics” etc. Only way to do this is to get in the process; voluntary participation and informed consent prevents this from happening; deception might be required to get results. Can you do covert studies? Some sort of research designs and questions might conflict with this idea; can’t get the data that is required if we stick too rigidly on this principle. - Consider: - Simply handing a consent sheet to marginalized communities may not be sufficient o You must ensure that each participant fully understands the nature of the consent o What steps are you going to take to ensure that the consent that you are getting is actually informed consent; - Where there are power differentials between the researcher and the research subject 1 October 2, 2013 Political Science 3N06 o There may be subtle types of coercion unknowingly at work o IF there is a power disparity must address how to create a climate; that levels these powers? - Complications: - What effect will fully informed consent have on the nature of your observations? - There are circumstances where fully revealing the nature of the study will “influence the very phenomenon you are trying to observe” - Moreover, those who volunteer to participate may not be representative of the general population that you are interested in understanding - Finally does fully informed consent inhibit investigations of corruption and abuse of power (if you want to study those who may be guilty of either action)? - So what to do? - One text suggests that “When the norm of voluntary participation is impossible to follow, it’s all the more important that you observe the other ethical norms of research” 2. DO NO H ARM o Probably the most important principle - What is harm? o Absolute prohibition against physical harm o But harm extends to a consideration of “emotional, social, financial, legal, and psychological” harm o These rights must be protected both during the data collection process and after the conclusion of the study - Complications? o Consider critically-oriented research that is designed to expose corruption or brutality  Corrupt politicians; police brutality; and as part of this process; int
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