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An Analysis of Erin Brockovich: Brain Tumors

Survey Research

A survey research is a study where researchers use samples of the population to make conclusions about a certain trait in the entire population. Psychologists and sociologists always use such studies in assessing the feelings, attitudes and thoughts of populations. Mostly, researchers use this survey in determining probable winners of political elections, the effectiveness of adverts and the performance of organizations. Researchers usually prepare their research questions in advance to guide their studies (Bonometti & Tang, 2006). In such a survey, the nature of the research questions is very critical. Researchers need to be very careful when designing the questions. The questions must be unbiased in order to give correct conclusions.

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Method Used by the Characters in the Film

Erin Brockovich gathers most of her information through personal surveys. She realizes that many employees in the PG&E Company suffer from similar illnesses. She makes this discovery after perusing through the files she finds at Ed’s office while working for him. She decides to visit Donna, who tells her about her sickness. She also informs her that her husband has Hodgkin’s disease. She interviews other employees, who admit that the company had paid for their medication. She also interviews the representatives of the PG&E Company regarding the victims’ compensation (Táquez, 2009).

Needs Assessment

Needs assessment in the movie entails identifying the problem and confirming with the victims. Erin Brockovich notices that the contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium is causing illnesses among the employees of PG&E Company. When she carries out further research, she realizes that the management of the company is aware of the problem, but lies to the employees about the seriousness of their plight. She engages the employees and informs them of her plan to sue the company for compensation and improvement of the working environment. She continues interacting with the employees, and she wins their confidence. She meets a former employee, who has some documents that show that the company was aware of the contamination and the diseases among its employees.

He informs her about the company’s intention to destroy all the information that could implicate them. She prepares all the evidence she had gathered from interviews and other documents and takes them to court (Táquez, 2009).

Needs Assessment on the Prevalence, Distribution, and Interrelations of Variables

When Erin discovers that Donna’s illness had resulted from the hexavalent chromium, she decides to establish the prevalence of the effect of the hexavalent chromium on the employees and other people in the vicinity. She realizes that many people were experiencing tumours and other defects due to the poison from the chromium (Táquez, 2009).

The conversation she has with Donna helps her discover that the contamination of water with hexavalent chromium had spread over a large area. She decides to meet the people and talk to them about it. She notices that almost everybody in the area had received free medication from PG&E Company. Therefore, her assessment reveals that chromium hexavalent has caused health problems to every PG&E employee.

Brockovich’s assessment of needs shows her the interrelation between the contamination of water with hexavalent chromium, free medical attention and the illnesses among the citizens of Hinckley. She discovers that the company is ready to provide free medical attention to its employees because it is responsible for the contamination of the water in the surrounding area. She also links the prevalence in the cases of brain tumour to the contamination of the water with hexavalent chromium.

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Researcher’s Ethical Implications


Researchers need to make the participants aware of the purposes of their studies and the parts they play. They should not interview them or give them questionnaires to fill before telling them what the study intends to address. In this study, Erin Brockovich informs her participants about the contamination and her plans to sue PG&E. She asks 630 plaintiffs to accompany her to the court. She goes to Donna Jensen’s home with the purpose of informing her that the judge will make the company pay 300,000 million dollars to the victims, and 5 million dollars will go to Donna’s family.


Researchers must ask for the participants’ permission before using them in their study. The participants must give consent to the researchers’ requests before allowing the study to continue. In the movie, Brockovich pursues Donna Jensen’s case after getting permission from her. Donna allows her to proceed with the suit after the completion of her research. Brockovich also tells Ed, her employer about the case. She knows that he must take part in the suit as the plaintiffs’ lawyer.

The Study Should Benefit the Participant

The principle of beneficence expects such a study to benefit the participants. The researcher should not just use the participants for her benefit (Fournier, 2005). Erin carries out the research with the purpose of helping the victims get justice. She is not happy with the prevalence of brain tumour and other illnesses that arise from the contamination of water with hexavalent chromium. Therefore, she adopts an ethical approach to this problem.


Bonometti, R., & Tang, J. (2006). A dynamic technique for conducting online survey- based research. Competitiveness Review, 16(2), 97-105.

Fournier, V. (2005). The balance between beneficence and respect for patient autonomy in clinical medical ethics in France. Cambridge Quarterly Of Healthcare Ethics, 14(03), 281–286.

Táquez, H. (2009). Erin Brockovich. Web.

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