Ethical Considerations in Research

When you think about ethics, what comes to your mind? For most people, it is sets of rules that separate right from wrong like the golden rule -"Do unto others what you want them to do to you". Alternatively, it could be a professional code of conduct such as the Hippocratic Oath - "first of all, do no harm", or a religious guide like the 10 commandments. Ethical considerations in research are necessary guidelines that help differentiate right from wrong and make the best out of each research.

Ethical Considerations in Research

It is not a good idea to do your research and blindly publish everything that you have found without caution and care. When conducting a study, pay attention to the following ethical considerations.

1. Frankly Discuss Participant's Credit

Credit for authorship in most cases brings about problems. In order to evade such problems arising after you have toiled hard to compile a report, ensure that you clearly state the contributions to your research. Ensure that credit is given to all those who participated, instead of oneself. Order of credit should be taken into considerations: Those that participated least should be mention on the footnotes or introduction statements.

2. Acknowledge Intellectual Property

Copyrights, patents and other types of intellectual property should be respected. Unless with permission, do not go ahead and use unpublished results, methods or data. Plagiarism is suicide in a research. Ensure that you have given credit to those that are due and acknowledgement the contributions you have received.

3. Make Clear of Multiple Relationships

This mainly affects researchers who might end up conducting research on people that they already have a relationship with. For example, a lecturer using his students as a test subject for his research; or a psychologist uses a client as in researches. It is advisable to have a written agreement between the two parties, which elaborates the extent of the professional research being done on the subject. This will ensure that there are no future misunderstandings and no interference between the multiple relationships created.

4. Honesty and Accuracy

Honesty is among the most important ethical considerations in research. When conducting a research, honesty is the best policy. Ensure that your data is accurately reported as well as the results you get and the methods and procedures used to acquire the data. It is wrong to present false or fabricated data or misinterpreted results. Ensure you do not lie to the agency, your colleagues or the public.

5. Absolute Impartiality

Ensure that you are not biased in any way when conducting your research. Be it with the expert testimonies, grant writing, personnel decisions, peer review, data examination, data analysis and experimental design. Self-deception should be avoided in all circumstances. Personal factors that might affect the research one way or another should be disclosed.

6. Caution and Details

Caution should be taken at every step of your research. Mistakes arising due to negligence or carelessness should not occur. Have a critical eye for the work you have done and also that of your colleagues. Research activities like correspondence, research design and data collection should be well recorded.

7. Animal Respect

Animals should be cared for and respected when conducting research on them. Unnecessary or poorly designed experiments should not be performed on animals. The aim is not to hurt the animals.

8. Thorough Explanation and Complete Understanding

All partakers of your research should elaborately understand what they have been explained to. They should get a chance to ask questions for clarification and the answers should be given by an expert in the field being studied. A written document should be read and understood by the participant and, therefore, should not contain technical vocabulary unknown to the participant. If the research is being done in a foreign country, the written consent form should be written in the local language and translated back.

9. Free Will of Participants

One of the most important ethical considerations in research is free will. Participating in a research should be voluntary. There should be no exaggerated promises to lure a participant or any form of coercion. The participant should be allowed to discuss whether they should take up the role or not with their trusted other or family prior to accepting the role.

10. Proper Mental State

A participant should be both mentally and physically fit to give consent. In case the participant is not mentally stable or there is an emergency, the assigned surrogate is allowed to decide if he or she is fit or competent to keep on with the role. If fitness or mental health condition is in question, a mental examination can be performed.

11. Oral or Written Consent

If you will use human beings as test subjects, it is important to have them sign a written consent to show they have agreed to the terms of the study. However, if your study won't reveal any personal information on the subject and their signature is the only link to the study, an oral agreement can work. For minors who are not able to read nor write, they can use gestures to agree or disagree.

12. Confidentiality

Confidentially of the participants of a research should be maintained at all times. Unless participants agree to disclose themselves, anonymity must be maintained.

13. Pulling Out of the Research

If the participant does not feel comfortable with the study anymore, they are allowed to leave. This should be made clear at the beginning of the study. No pressure should be directed to an individual to go with the research.

14. Other Ethical Considerations in Research

  • If you want to research on something that is available to the public, there is no need to seek consent.
  • Ensure you do not cause physical, emotional or mental harm to the participants.
  • Do not take advantage of easy to access participants like children.
  • If your research is done within an institution, seek consent of the board before you commence.
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