Ethics in Social Research
• Include concerns, dilemmas, and conflicts that arise over the proper way to
• They help define what is or what is not legitimate to do, or what is “moral”
research procedure involves.
Why be Ethical?
• Most unethical behaviours is due to the lack of awareness and pressures on
researchers to take ethical shortcuts
• Occurs when a researcher falsifies or distorts the data or the methods of data
collection, or plagiarizes the work of others
• Includes significant, unjustified departures from the generally accepted scientific
practices for doing and reporting research
• Research Fraud: occurs when a researcher fakes or invents data that he or she did
not really collect, or fails to honestly and fully report how he or she conducted the
• Plagiarism: occurs when a researcher “steals” the ideas or writings of another and
uses it without citing.
Unethical but Legal
• See figure 3.1 page 49
• A professional researcher and the research participant or employeeassistants are
in a relationship of unequal power and trust. (49)
Ethical Issues Involving Research Participants
• Acting ethically requires that researcher balance the value of advancing
knowledge against the value of noninterference in the life of others.
• Either extreme causes problems
Physical Harm, Psychological Abuse, and Legal Jeopardy
• Different types of harm are more likely in other types of research (eg. In
experiments versus field research).
• It is the researchers responsibility to be aware of all potential harms and to take
specific actions to minimize the risks to participants at all times(51)
• Different Types:
Rare, even in biomedical research
An ethical researcher anticipates risks before beginning a study, including
basic safety concerns Psychological Abuse, Stress, or Lose of SelfEsteem:
Researchers want to learn about peoples response in reallife, highanxiety
producing, or unpleasant situations.
Researchers should meet with other researchers who have preformed a similar
It should never create unnecessary stress (51)
Researcher is responsible for protecting research participants form increased
risk of arrest. (53)
Other Harm to Participants
• An ethical researcher must be sensitive to any harm to participants, consider
precautions, and weigh potential harm against potential benefits
• Another type of harm is negative impact on the careers, reputations, or incomes of
• Social researchers follow the ethical “Principle of voluntary consent”: never force
anyone to participate in research, and do not lie to anyone unless it is necessary
and the only way to accomplish a legitimate research purpose. (54)
• A fundamental ethical principle of social research is: Never coerce anyone into
participating; participation MUST be voluntary at all times
• Permission is not enough; people need to know what they are being asked to
participate in so that they can become aware of their rights an what they are
getting involved in when they read and sign a statement given informed consent
• Informed consent: an agreement by participants stating they are willing to be in a
study and they know something about what the research procedure will involve.
• See “Box 3.2” in text page 55
Special Populations and New Inequalities
• Special populations: are people who lack necessary cognitive competency to give
valid informed consent or people in a weak position who might cast aside their
freedom to refuse to participate in a study.
• Unethical to involve incompetent people
Avoid Creating New Inequalities
• Another type of harm happens when a group of people is denied a service or
benefit as a result of participating in a research project.
• A researcher can reduce creating a new inequality among research participants
when the outcome has a