While conducting research, it is essential to choose an appropriate research design as per your research requirements. Besides this, it is also essential to meet ethical considerations depending on the research type.

Today, there is a growing concern about the research’s ethical considerations due to advancements in technology and research activities. The ethical and legal issues concerning research involving human participants have been debated for many years.

While planning your research, if you also successfully fulfil ethical considerations during and after the research, then you are more likely to protect yourself, your organisation and research participants, society, and places you visit during the research from any unintentional harm.

Firstly, you need to have a proper understanding of ethical considerations. Let’s discuss them

What are ethical considerations?

The word ethics refers to the moral principles that depict your behaviour and approach while conducting any activity. Similarly, ethical considerations are the moral principles you follow to protect the people and places associated with your research from causing any type of harm. These people and places could be

  • The research participants
  • Society
  • Organisation
  • Place
  • Political group

When interacting with companies or members of the general population, it is essential to uphold ethical behaviour. There is the possibility of diverse testing approaches and interactions during the research, such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, polls, and an analytical environment.

Although, as a researcher, you will never intend to harm anyone else, you still need to be careful that you are not unintentionally putting anyone or anything associated with the research at risk.

Let’s take a look at what types of harms can occur due to your research

Types of Harms that can Happen during the Research

  1. Physical harm

Your research should not harm someone physically.

Example
If you are conducting research on the effects of diet on women. You will need to monitor the diet of your participants. It means you will be responsible for their overall health during the research. What if you ensured a healthy diet of participants and still had some health issues or side effects in response to the diet?

How can you prevent such issues?

You can avoid such issues by thoroughly investigating the participant’s health conditions. You should ensure that your participants are not patients of any diseases such as High or low blood pressure, diabetes and cardiological issue, etc. Also, you should find out whether any participant is allergic to some kind of food.

  1. Psychological harm

Your research should not hurt anyone’s emotions or feelings.

Example
If you conduct research on growing porn addiction in people, you might need to use inappropriate images and videos that may embarrass and offend your research participants. Moreover, you may also need to face criticism from various commercial groups or any specific community even after your research.

  1. Financial Harm

Your research should not cause any financial harm to any person or organisation.

Example
Imagine you are conducting research on the unethical behaviour of a company’s employees, and you interfere in the accounting department and found that some employees are involved in a scam. If you report to the management, it may result in the termination of that employee. What if you find that later your allegation was not true?  

In the above example, the type of approach described will not be appropriate. Moreover, you should also take care that the organisation should not face any financial loss due to your research.

Example
You need to safeguard the premises, including people’s health and furniture of the company, institution, or any place you use in your research. 

  1. Social Harm

Your research should not cause any social harm as well.

Example
If you conduct research on issues in people’s married lives, you may try to disclose everything about the couple that they want to keep confidential.
Other examples could be child abuse, domestic violence, or religious conflict. These kinds of topics are more likely to provoke negative thoughts than positive thoughts, even if your intentions are good. 

Types of Ethical Considerations in a Research

Many Universities and Organisations follow various kinds of ethical consideration guidelines. Following are the most common ethical considerations that every researcher should follow in all types of researches:

  1. Voluntary Participation

Your research participation should be voluntary, and everybody should be updated about the terms and conditions involved in the research. In general, you should not compel people to participate, but in certain cases, it may be possible.

Example
You can request the participants to participate in your research, explaining the importance of research and its benefits. Similarly, you can’t warn participants by threatening them about the negative consequences if they don’t participate in your research.

  1. Informed Consent

Participants must be mindful that they are not obligated to participate, that doing so will not adversely affect them, and that there will be no negative consequences for them.

Participants should be aware that:

  • You have to take permission from the company or the organisation to investigate the stated activities before starting the research.
  • Research participation is voluntary, and there is no penalty for not participating.
  • Relevant study results will or will not be communicated to their management.

How to take a Participant’s consent?

  • You can prepare a consent form or letter including all the terms and conditions explaining the research procedure.
  • You need to make it specific to the participant about their role in the research, what information will be shared with them, and what information will be confidential.
  • After that, you can take the participants’ signatures to prove that they agree with the research’s terms and conditions.
  • You can also control what type of information should be disclosed to participants.

Example
The consent letter for the management of an institution or a company will differ from the student’s and employees’ consent letter.

  • Remember, you need to be careful that you don’t share the same letter with each participant in your research.
  1. Anonymity and Confidentiality

You need to keep everyone’s responses confidential in the questionnaire. Although you already mention confidentiality in the consent letter, you need to further discuss these problems with the participants. You need to ensure them that their real identity will not be disclosed anywhere. You can also explain whether you will be aware of the participant’s involvement in the research.

Example
If you are conducting a survey, you can distribute the questionnaire and inform the participants to fill it out and return it to you. In this way, you won’t be able to identify who participated and who did not participate. On the other hand, if you conduct an interview, you can inform the participants and take assurance from them about appearing for the interview’s time and place. In this way, you can identify who participated and how they responded to your interview questions. 

You can send managers of the place a copy of your consent paper. It is of significance when conducting an industry-based analysis, and the final report should be circulated to all members, including the participants.

  1. Protection from Harm

There are numerous harms that research participants may suffer, including physical harm, psychological harm, and humiliation.

These are all forms of social illness. In this sense, you must recognise any negative possibilities and overcome these possible problems.

Your study should mitigate any possible harm to occur. However, this is challenging, but you can still inform the participants about the possible risks and harms they may encounter during the research. It will keep them aware and alert about the risk and choose to participate or withdraw from the research.

  1. Communicating Findings

You need to resolve three main problems before completing the study report, writing your dissertation, and submitting it to your supervisor.

You should take care of the following

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious offence that is common in student work in which you must not present someone else’s work as your own.

You need to properly reference and credit the main resource and its author to avoid plagiarism. Academic dishonesty is an infringement of the student code of ethics, which may also lead to expulsion from the institution. Therefore, one must be responsible enough to present the original one instead of copying others without referencing.

Intellectual dishonesty

Universities tend to have different perceptions and interpretations of academic fraud; however, it is bad if not worse than plagiarism. Academic fraud is the misrepresentation of one’s accomplishments. This would include making up data and/or results from the data and/or purposefully putting forward conclusions that are not accurate. Students may cheat on tests for a variety of reasons. While conducting interviews, they may have difficulty reaching the correct people and will need to invent data. Other students may give inconclusive results after studying and may feel that they need to find something in order to get a good grade.

It includes:

  • Copyright infringement
  • Overlapping Publications
    Data Fabrication

Misrepresenting results

It also essential that you interpret the findings of your research accurately. Misrepresenting results may lead to many negative consequences on your research as well as the field of your research.

Example
If you are a student, you will still be learning about your research subject and can’t blindly draw conclusions based on your findings and experience. On the other hand, if you are an expert academic researcher in a particular field, you still need to base your claims on accurate and strong evidence. In both cases, you need to interpret the data accurately without any error. 

If you are a student researcher, you can ensure it by taking the help of your instructor. If you are an academic researcher, you can cross the results and take your research team’s help in data interpretation.

  1. Taking Written Permission to Use the Premises 

You need to take written permission to use the organisation’s premises before conducting the research.

  1. Recording the responses of the Participants

You can use audio and video recording to avoid confusion in data interpretation. If your research includes observation of the participants, then using CCTV cameras will let you check how the participants behave and respond during the research.

Tips to prevent any harm during your research

Your research purpose is to promote learning through a deeper knowledge of research and its effects. However, you will also do your study on participants outside your University, such as ordinary customers, school instructors, and staff. These participants will be voluntary participants in your research. In order to avoid any criticism, harm, or negative consequence of research, you should follow these tips:

  • Choose the research topic and plan the research design thoroughly, assessing all the challenges you may face during the research
  • Figure out how you will deal with such situations and how you can stop such problems from arising.
  • Act in compliance with ethical values.
  • Consider how your thesis could adversely impact researchers.
  • Stop taking such positions in which someone could suggest unethical conduct, which may cause media backlash and/or result in a complaint against you.
  • Ensure that everyone throughout the research is safe
  • All participants have decided to participate at their own risk and complete knowledge of what is needed and about harmful effects from such involvement.
  • Also, people who do not want to engage in the study must be offered the same details regarding their participation choices.

Bottom Line:

If you plan your research activities appropriately, then you can conduct your research smoothly without any issue. Moreover, based on the primary data collection method, you may need to fulfil many ethical and legal considerations. Whereas if your research is based on a secondary data collection method, you may not need to meet many ethical considerations. This is because you need to access many places in the primary research and interact with many people from various fields. On the other hand, in secondary research, you only need to rely on secondary data from other existing studies.

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