Ethics refers to well-based standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do. It seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining such concepts as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice, and crime.
The goal of ethics in research is to ensure that no one is harmed or no one suffers from adverse consequences from research activities.
Because integrity in research is vital, ethical consideration should be given prime importance when preparing research designs.
In most research settings, three parties are involved: the researcher, the client (user), and the respondent (subject). The interaction of each of these parties, with one or both of the other two, identifies a series of ethical questions.
Consciously or unconsciously, each party expects a certain right and feels certain obligations toward the other parties.
Many questions arise in the process. The researchers believe they have the right to seek information from the respondents, while the respondents believe that they have a certain right to privacy.
This may lead him to refuse to participate. For each of the respondent’s rights, there is a corresponding obligation on the part of the researcher.
For example, the individual’s right to privacy dictates that the researcher should protect the privacy and anonymity of the respondent.
That is, the respondent’s identity and the information he or she is providing to the researcher will not be disclosed to the users in any event.
When a respondent discloses information about his/her matter to the researcher, he or she must be ensured that such information will be used only for research purposes.
Violation of any of the norms will be considered as unethical. It is also expected that a respondent must be truthful while responding.
The user also preserves some rights and obligations. His primary right is to expect objective and accurate data from the researcher. He should also expect that his instructions relating to confidentiality have been followed to do.
To make a study ethically acceptable, the following points are of immense importance during data collection:
- Do not deceive respondents about the true purpose of a study.
- Do not ask respondent questions that cause him or her extreme embarrassment.
- Do not ask respondent questions that might cause emotional turmoil by reminding him or her of an unpleasant experience,
- Do not ask respondent questions that cause guilt.
- Do not ask the respondent questions that might invade his or her privacy.
- Do not harm the respondents by studying them without their knowledge.
- Do not threaten or compel the respondent to participate.
- Do not violate a promise of confidentiality, such as disclosing the identity of the respondents.
The researcher can also act unethically when analyzing data. These include, among others.
- By revealing only part of the facts
- Presenting facts out of context
- Falsifying findings to please the clients
- We are offering a misleading presentation, such as ‘lying with statistics,’ to make the study in the expected direction.
In general, a researcher must be ethical so that a respondent does not suffer physical harm, discomfort, pain, embarrassment, or loss of privacy.
To safeguard these, the researcher should follow three guidelines in designing his research as perceived by Cooper and Schindler (1998):
- Begin data collection by explaining to the respondents the benefits expected from the research without exaggeration.
- Privacy and confidentiality are profound ethical issues in research. Explain to the respondents that their rights and well being will be safeguarded and say how this will be done. This may be accomplished by maintaining the confidentiality of the responses and destroying the identity of the respondents.
- Be certain that interviewers obtain the informed consent of the respondents in an informed consent form.
An Informed consent form is a written agreement signed by the subject or the respondent and the researcher concerning the terms and conditions of a subject’s voluntary participation of a study.
Such a form essentially entails making the subject fully aware of the purpose of the study, its possible dangers, and the credentials of the researchers so that he or she waives his or her right to privacy when he or she agrees to participate in the study.
Complete informed consent has four characteristics:
- The subject must be competent to give consent.
- Consent must be voluntary, free from coercion, and so forth.
- The subject must be adequately informed to make a decision.
- The subject must be aware of the risks or outcomes associated with the research.