Ethics in Social Research Essay Example

  • Category:
    Sociology
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    High School
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    3268

Ethics in Social Research

Introduction

The social research is an important aspect of social sciences and it involves carrying out research for the purposes of obtaining data regarding different social issues. The process of carrying out social research may be complex as the researchers have to undertake various steps during the process. Different social research methods can also be used during the process of carrying out the research. This depends on the nature of the data that is required. The social research methods include the qualitative and quantitative methods. Mixed research methods are also common in social research. This involves the use of both the qualitative and quantitative research method. The social research requires a lot of accuracy in order to ensure that the research outcome is credible. A lot of expertise is also required during the data collection process in order to obtain the required data and results. This means that the social research should be carried out by professionals. During the social research, both the primary and secondary data may be required in order to meet the requirements of the research. The analysis of the social research data is also important and it requires a lot of expertise as well as accuracy. Different methods of data analysis are also required during the process in order to determine the outcome of the research. The credibility of the data collected is dependent on the concepts of ethics which is required during the social research (Babbie, 2011). The paper thus discusses the concepts of social research in relation to the ethical concepts.

Background

Ethics involves what is morally good or bad within the society. However, the definition may vary in different societies because the different values are perceived differently in different societies. However in social research, the ethical codes have been developed by various organization s for the purposes of guiding the researchers. Over the years, there have been arguments concerning ethics in social research. Some argue that it is not possible to be entirely ethical when carrying out social research as some incidences may require the researchers to be unethical in order to obtain the data. However, most of the people argue that the credibility of the research is purely dependant on ethical regardless of the nature of information required when carrying out the social research. During the process of carrying out the social research, the treatment of the respondents matters and hence the reasons for the development of the ethical codes (Bryman, 2012).

The concepts of ethics also appear to restrict the social researchers concerning the activities that they should be involved in during the research. The role of professional bodies in social research has also raised some arguments among the social researchers. The high emphasizes that is usually placed on the social research means that the researchers have to be engaged in high standards of ethics in order for their research to be accepted. The social research that has been carried out with low levels of ethics is never accepted regardless of the information that it provides. The concepts of ethics are thus increasingly becoming important in social research and it determines whether the outcome of the social research will be accepted or not.

Literature Review

Application of Ethics in Social Research

The social researchers should ensure that they are familiar with the codes of ethics that have been set up by the professional bodies. This should be before carrying out the research so as to avoid any inconveniences. In the case of academic social research, the researchers should be acquainted with the codes of ethics that have been developed by the institution. The universities have ethical committees which are responsible for determining what is ethically acceptable and what is not acceptable. The main reason for the codes of ethics is to ensure that the results of the research are credible. On the other hand, the ethical codes are for the purposes of protecting the respondents and the researchers (Goldman, et al, 2011).

Any form of unethical behaviors during the social research may also impact negatively on the organization or the university. The unethical behaviors during the social researcher may thus cause problems to the institutions which may affect its image. In some cases the institutions may be faced with legal action due to the lack of ethics by their social researchers. It is thus important for the social researchers to ensure that they are ethical when carrying out their social research. The researchers themselves may end up being sued in case they breach ethics during the process of carrying out the research. This will not only put them in problems but the whole research may end up being cancelled. The social research therefore requires the researchers to work in accordance with the codes of ethics that have been set up by the professional bodies.

It is also important for the researchers to abide by the ethical rules and procedures that have been set up by the ethical committees. This is because the ethical committees will always ask the researchers to explain how their research meets the ethical requirements. A statement of ethical practice is also required for the social research. The social researchers should therefore ensure that their research has the ethical statement to show that they have fully complied with the ethical concepts. It is also important for the social researcher to indicate and explain whether their research will affect the participants. This will play an essential role in determining the action that should be taken in order to avoid the legal actions and negative impacts from the participants.

The social researchers should also note that the ethical concepts are required throughout the research. It should not only be limited during the data collection and analysis process. This is because the ethical problems may arise even after the research has presented the results of the research (Mertens, et al, 2009). The lack of ethics during the research also has a negative impact on the research process as it slows down the process at different stages. It is also important for the researchers to be ethical when collecting the data and should fully comply with the acceptable codes of ethics. This will play an essential role in increasing the credibility of the research and it will also avoid the cancellation of the whole research.

The social researchers should observe various ethical principles that have been put in place. Harm to participants is one of the main principles that the researchers should consider during the research. The social researchers should ensure that the research does not accuse any harm to the participants. This is because most people consider harm to the participants as unacceptable. The harm to the participants may vary and it may include physical or mental harm (Neuman, 2011). The researcher should ensure that no harm will be caused to the participants which play an essential role in ensuring that the research is credible.

The prevention of harm also involves maintaining the confidentiality of the participants. Most of the social research may involve complex social issues and exposing the participants could cause them harm. It is also important to ensure that the all the confidential records are well stored to avoid unauthorized access. It is also important for the social researchers to comply with the data protection laws for the purpose of maintain confidentiality of the participants. The social researchers should also ensure that the concepts of informed consent are observed. This is usually achieved by fully informing the participants of the nature of the research and the intended use of the data from the research. This will also play an essential role in ensuring that the participants are willing to participate in the research. The credibility of the research is also enhanced when the participants are fully informed about the reasons for the research and how their participation will impact the research.

The social researchers should therefore prepare an informed consent form that should be filled by the participants. Invasion of privacy is also an important ethical concept in social research. The privacy is a right to everyone and it should not be invade when carrying out research. The invasion of privacy is unacceptable in the ethical code and it is also against the law. During the social research, the issues of religion or sexuality may arise. The participants may refuse to answer such questions as it may amount to the invasion of their privacy. The social researchers should not force the respondents to answer the questions that may be related to their privacy. The confidentiality of the participants should be respected during the social research. Any confidential or personal information should not be exposed to the public.

The invasion of privacy may cause harm to the respondent and the respondent may decide to take legal action. Deception is also considered unethical in the social research. This usually involves presenting the research in a way that does not reflect the data obtained. Dishonesty is one way of deception in the social research (O’Leary, 2010). This is not acceptable in social research as it provides misleading information and hence impacting negatively on the outcome of the social research. Deception may also involve cheating during the process of carrying out the research. Lying to the participants is a form of deception and it should not be practiced buy the social researcher. This is because it is unethical and it will lower the credibility of the research.

Ethics plays an essential role in improving on the quality of the social research. This is achieved by ensuring that the research meets all the requirements of the ethical codes of ethics. On the other hand, the research achieves high standards through the observing the ethical codes. The social researcher should therefore adhere to all the ethical codes for the purpose of ensuring that the research is of high quality and standards. The acceptance rate of the research outcome is also high when the ethical codes are observed. The credibility of the research is also improved through the embracing the ethical concepts during the social research. The image of the institution is also not affected when the researchers observe the codes of ethics. The legal actions are also prevented incase the ethical concepts are involved in the research. This is because the rights of the participants are not infringed when the ethical codes are observed. It is thus important for the social researchers to ensure that they observe the ethical codes that have been set by the professional bodies (Perecman, et al, 2006). The ethical rules that have also been put in place by the ethical committees should also be observed. In the case of academic social research, it is important to note that it may take a lot of time before the research is approved based on the ethical concepts. However, it is important to ensure that all the procedures have been followed during the process in order to guarantee the approval of the social research.

Arguments against Ethical Principles

The concepts of ethics in social research are closely related to the theory of universalism. According to the theory of universalism, the ethical percepts should never be broken regardless of any situation. This means that breaking the ethical concepts during the social research discredits the outcome of the research. However, in some situations, the researchers have found it difficult to apply the concepts of ethics. This has led to the development of the situational ethics theory which suggests that deception should be considered on a case by case basis (Creswell, et al, 2011). This has also given the rise to the concept of the end justifying the means. Some of the social researchers argue that it will not be possible to know about some of the social phenomena if ethics is not broken. This is especially common when the social research involves the lifestyle of the people and politics. The social researchers therefore argue that it is important for the ethics to be observed but the situation at hand should also be considered. In some cases, the social researchers have no choice but to break the code of ethics in order to obtain the required data. This does not mean that the data is not correct but the method that has been used to carry out the research is questionable. This means that it is important for the social researchers should analyze the situation that they are in and apply the ethical concepts accordingly. The concepts of ethics may therefore present the researchers with a dilemma.

Some of the researchers have also argued that it is important for the social researchers to be flexible when it comes to ethics. This is for the purposes of ensuring that the information can be obtained. However, the concepts of flexibility mean that the social researchers will have to break the ethical concepts during the research which may affect the credibility of the research. On the other hand, it is also important to note that the concepts of ethics are useful in enhancing the quality and credibility of the research. In some instances, the participants may not give all the information that is required during the social research. Some social researchers have argued that it the researchers should make comparisons and fill the information that is missing in order to complete the research. This however results of dishonesty and hence the importance being ethical during the social research. The attitude of anything goes has also been argued to influence the social research. The concept of anything goes means that the researchers should weigh the situation and determine whether the ethical concepts should be applied or not (Denzin, et at, 2011). This means that the researchers should be in a position to be flexible depending on the nature of the research. However, the professional bodies still insist that the social researchers should be ethical at all times regardless of the situation that they are facing. The critics have however argued that the professional bodies insist on ethics since they want to protect their credentials.

Disadvantages

Although the ethical concepts require that the confidentiality of the participants should be maintained, the use of qualitative research makes it difficult. This is because the research method also requires the social researchers to mention the place where the research was carried out and in some case the nature of the respondents. It is thus easy for the respondents to be exposed despite observing the ethical principles. The ethical principle that requires the social researchers to create less harm to the participants may put them in a dilemma. This is because it may hinder the researchers from exposing the ills that are taking place in the society.

It is thus difficult for the researchers to become whistle blowers with regards to the social ills that take place in the society as their research can be deemed unethical as it breaches confidentiality (Robson, 2011). It is also important to note that the social researchers may find it difficult in some cases to know when harm is being committed. The principle of informed consent also affects the quality of the research. In some cases, the quality of the information may be compromised by the participants if they are informed of the reasons for carrying out the social research. This is common in the social research which the participants are trying to conceal several issues so as to influence the outcome of the research. The quality and accuracy of the information offered by the participants is thus affected by the ethical concepts.

The ethical concepts of deception also present the social researchers with a dilemma during the process of carrying out research. In some of types of research, it is not possible to give all the information regarding the research to the participants as it may jeopardize the outcome of the research. In some cases, the social researchers may be required to obtain sensitive information regarding certain issues. Disclosing their identities therefore affects the outcome of the research as the respondents may become unwilling to participate in the research.

The concepts of ethics may therefore limit the abilities of the researchers to collect sensitive information from the respondents. It is also important to note that it may be quite difficult for the researchers to highlight the sensitive social issues like abuse that takes place in the society while concealing the identity of the perpetrators (Silverman, 2011). This means that the social research may not play its role effectively in the society when the ethical concepts are fully observed. The decision making process is also complicated for the social researchers when the ethical concepts are observed. This is because of the researchers are in constant worry about what needs to be exposed and what should not be exposed. This to some extent affects the quality of the research. The ethical concepts therefore make it difficult for the researchers to come up with quality work with all the limitations that the ethical research places on them.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is evident that the concepts of social research are guided by the ethical principles and concepts. The ethical principles are for the purposes of ensuring that the research is credible. The professional bodies and ethical committees demand that the researchers should be ethical at all times. The lack of ethics during the social research may lead to the cancellation of the research. It is also evident that the researchers are not supposed to exposed confidential information regarding the participants as it amounts to the infringement of their rights. Legal issues may also arise in case the social researchers fail to be ethical when carrying out their research. Institutions as well as the organization may be exposed to legal action in case the social research is not ethical. It is also evident that the ethical principles cause some dilemma among the social researchers. This is because it limits their abilities to collect sensitive information with regards to the social problems in the society. This is because the researchers may not be able to work while fully disclosing the purpose of their research in most cases. The ills in the society are also difficult to highlight if total confidentiality is required during the social research.

List of References

Bryman, A. (2012). Social Research Methods (4th ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Babbie, E, 2011, The Basics of Social Research, Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. (General – Qual. and. Quant.)

Creswell, J, et al, 2011, Designing and conducting mixed methods research, Los Angeles: Sage Publications. (Mixed Methods).

Denzin, N, et al, 2011, The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks: Sage, (Qualitative – Edited collection Handbook).

Goldman, A, et al, 2011, Social Epistemology: essential readings, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Social Epistemology – Edited collection).

Mertens, D, 2009, The handbook of Social Research Ethics, Los Angeles: Sage Publications. (Ethics – edited collection)

Neuman, W, 2011, Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (7th edition). Boston: Allyn& Bacon. (Qual. vs. Quant.)

O’Leary, Z, 2010, The Essential Guide to doing your Research Project (2nd. Ed.), Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. (“Your research”).

Perecman, E, et al, 2006, A Handbook for Social Science Field Research: Essays & Bibliographic Sources on Research design and Methods, California: Sage Publications. (available as EBook via the UWS Library). (Ethnography – Field research)

Robson, C, 2011, Real World Research: a resource for users of social research methods in applied settings, Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell. (Real world – Applied).

Silverman, D, 2011, Qualitative Research: issues of theory, method and practice, Los Angeles: Sage Publications (General – edited collection).