Ethical issues in Research
Ethics in research is regarded as important to make sure that the principles of respect, justice and avoiding doing harm are maintained by using set standards (Punch 2006). To act ethically the researcher should assure participants’ interest first (Reaves, 1991).However, Urich (2003) stresses that in spite of these principles being universal, their interpretation and application can vary. Punch (2006) asserts that many research projects especially those related with medical and health must be approved by an ethics committee. However there are exceptions, for example small one hundred hour projects and some educational and social science projects. Nevertheless, the researcher is still required to uphold the organisation’s vetting procedures. In this essay some ethical issues that researchers consider will be discussed. These include the need for informed consent, confidentiality and anonymity, the implications when negotiating access to the sample and use of quotations and the reporting of findings. Punch (2006) highlights that additional ethical issues are likely to arise in qualitative research as the type of inquiry is likely to be more intrusive than most other methods. Informed Consent
Informed consent is an important ethical consideration. It is important to gain the willing consent of participants in the research process and to make sure they have adequate information to decide whether to participate (Punch, 2006). Furthermore the researcher must clearly explain the purpose of the research: the main questions to be addressed, who will use the research and how, any issues or risks, what tasks, will be carried out and what will happen to the data collected. Corti et al (2000) doubts the extent to which participants can ever be fully informed and say this issue “is a much disputed one. We should never assume that all participants have a detailed appreciation of the nature and aims of academic research.” p7 The participants need to understand that they are not obliged to take part and can stop at any time without the need to give reasons , this provides participants with some control over the process. However codes of ethics acknowledge that fully voluntary consent is difficulty to obtain more so where there are power relations within social institutions and in personal relationships. For example in an organisation subordinates might not feel free to say no, when approached by an authority because this may be seen as damaging work relationships as well as negatively affecting future job prospects. Bell (2010) recommends drawing up an ethical protocol and consent form appropriate for the reading age of the participants. Signing of these by the participants is some indication of them understanding some of the implications of their consent. Informed consent aims to protect the participants from harm and being exploited, prevent researchers from being sued and having their project deemed invalid or unethical and that obtaining informed consent mean the results are likely to be more accurate. Negotiating access
Researchers need to gain access to people, documents, places and events in order to carry out research. Negotiating access is an important ethical consideration which according to Liamputting (2007 cited in Monette, 2010) can be problematic. Individuals acting as gatekeepers have the power to grant or deny access to potential participants, information or institutions. On the one hand the gatekeepers may use this power to ensure the vulnerable are protected. On the other hand they may be preventing some participants from airing their views or equally it may be that they are trying to protect an organisation’s reputation and control what is published. The researcher should create good relationships with the gatekeepers to gain their cooperation and ensure their credibility to eliminate anxieties and increase access to participants. Once access is gained...
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