Research ethics revisited

We discussed ethics in our method’s course again a bit yesterday and reached the conclusion that the ethics guidelines are just that – guidelines, meaning they are adaptive for one’s research situation. Aspects that are not adaptive and crucial for all researchers are: 1) Give people the chance to NOT consent – people have a right to say ‘No’; 2) Informed consent – make sure your subjects understand the nature of your study (with some exceptions in Psychology). While the ethical clearance form helps one work out practical details beforehand, we need to think of ethical ramifications every step of the way. When in doubt, speak to your supervisor or a member of the ethics committee. For students first encountering ethics, it sounds like extra paperwork and a real pain, but it is very important to make sure everything is in place so that you do not get into trouble later on. Also, if you are an aspiring academic, there are situations that could potentially ruin your reputation. As students, we don’t always have the competence or research maturity to understand particular consequences, so supervisor support, understanding and guidance is vital. I’m very happy that mine has taught me so much:)

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3 Responses to “Research ethics revisited”

  1. Mareike Kramper Says:

    Nicci*
    I agree that a high degree of sensitivity is required when conducting any form of research with people. I find that the more experience you get, the more aware and alert one becomes when answers within interview scenarios are ‘staged’. At one point I asked an interviewee whether she reads tabloids. Her answer was quick: “no, never”. But as soon as the nurse, who just passed by, heard her answer she interfered and ‘corrected’ her. So, the interviewee changed her answer to “sometimes”. …

    • nicolapallitt Says:

      Hi Mareike:) I totally agree, people can tell you about the research process and ethics and you can do all the research methodology readings under the sun, but the real learning moments happen when you’re doing it or revising data afterwards. Because I’m doing my thesis on kids and games, I feel that sometimes the kids think I want to see negative effects so I have a few minority cases where they say things to shock me, knowing that their play is being recorded. I think this is partly because of discourses in society that they pick up that ‘games are bad for kids’ Some games might be, although there is no convincing evidence yet. But signals of deception can tell us things sometimes that the answers to our questions do not. Perhaps we’re not always asking the right questions? I’ve never asked the children I do research with whether they think games are bad for them. I ask what they think their parents think about it and their teachers, but not what they themselves think. Perhaps I should do this. Tabloids are predominantly read by working class people and the sensationalist stories are seen as being believable to people with little education. Maybe she does not want to say she reads Tabloids because she thinks you will judge her within the stereotype of tabloid readers. “What do you think about tabloids such as Die Son or The Voice?” may have yielded different answers and probe for examples. Her examples could tell you a lot about what she reads in the tabloids and how she understands them. Sometimes reframing questions play a big role.

      • Mareike Kramper Says:

        I definitely agree what you are saying. I was just amazed, how the informant changed her answer so conspicuously after the nurse ‘detected’ her. I wasn’t prepared, as those incidences only happen in practice and, as you said as well, are not found in any textbook.

        It must be very interesting to work with kids. They are soooo unpredictable. You must be so exhausted after a day of ‘hanging out’ with them 🙂

        And there are so many games by now!?! How do you know what they are talking about? 🙂 I remember when I grew up, there was not much of a choice: Mario, Joshi, Streetfighters, King Kong. I think, that was it. At least your research and studying includes playing games, I guess 🙂 hihi.


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