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SOAN 2120 Lecture Notes - The Dilemma, Institute For Operations Research And The Management Sciences, Caving

Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SOAN 2120
Scott Schau

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Chapter 3: Ethics in Social Research
Introduction: Ethics include the concerns, dilemmas, and conflicts that arise over the
proper way to conduct research. Ethics help define what is or is not legitimate to do, or
what “moral” research procedure involves.
Ethical issues ask you to balance two values:
1) The pursuit of knowledge
2) The rights of research participants or of others in society
Researchers are constantly confronted with ethical dilemmas and must decide how to
act. Ultimately, ethical research depends on the integrity of an individual researcher.
Why be Ethical?
Ethical research will take longer to complete, cost more money, be more complicated,
and be less likely to produce unambiguous results.
If one were to act unethically Odds of getting caught would be very small and written
ethical standards are in the form of vague, loose principles.
Scientific Misconduct: is an opposed type of unethical behavior. This occurs when a
researcher falsifies or distorts the data or the methods of data collection, or plagiarizes
the work of others.
Unethical but Legal: For example a paper is written without any footnotes. Upon
further inspection it is seen that many of the ideas and key information have been taken
from another document written ten years earlier. The document written earlier was not
copyrighted which means that it was perfectly legal to use the information for whatever
use you wanted (in this case writing another paper) However completing such an act as
plagiarizing another’s work would seem very unethical by most of the scientific
Power Relations: For example a bonafide professor and a student assistant researcher
are in a relationship of unequal power and trust. For scientific work to be seen as
legitimate you need a person who has credentials and viewed as a legitimate member in
the scientific community. The student researcher must trust that when the work is
completed that they will receive recognition of their work from their superior (ie co
author). This recognition will help them become a recognized figure in the scientific
community and help their research in the future seem more legitimate.
Ethical Issues Involving Research Participants
When if ever are researchers justified in risking physical harm or injury to those being
studied, causing them great embarrassment or inconvenience, violating their privacy, or
frightening them? The law and codes of ethics boil down to “you should always show
respect for the research participant.
Physical Harm: Is very rare. A straightforward ethical principle is that researchers
should never cause physical harm. This also includes taking into account ones conditions
prior to any form of study (i.e you wouldn’t put a person who may be in danger of heart
failure (stroke victim) in a situation that could potentially lead to their demise)
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