Ethics is a term which refers to that branch of philosophy which attempts to deal with questions regarding morality. Ethics tries to differentiate the right from the wrong, commendable from lamentable, good from bad, obligatory from acceptable, responsible from irresponsible and fair from unfair. Not only does it concern itself with one’s character but also with one’s conduct by addressing both personal matters and public policies.
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In the first scenario, we find that a high number of residents regularly violate restrictions on alcohol consumption in a campus. Now, the researchers decided to keep the research results unpublished as there was no extensive analysis of alcohol use. This act is completely in alliance wit the “Ethics in Social Science Research”. This is because in accordance to Nachmias and Nachmias,”Anonymity requires that the identity of individuals be separated from the information they give” (Nachmias and Nachmias, p. 90). In this case, though there was no revelation of names or identities, the problem of identity was easily assumed as the campus was identified and it was revealed that a very high percentage was involved in the breach of campus code. This would result in severe action on all the campus fellows by the authorities. This is almost revealing the identity, not as an individual, but as a mass. Though Babbie (2002) indicates, “that subjects must base their voluntary participation in research projects on a full understanding of the possible risks involved” (Babbie, p. 57) it is obvious that the participants were not aware of the authoritarian consequences. However, as the results are not backed by thorough analysis and data, the researchers did the correct ethical act by not revealing the results.
In the second scenario, research questionnaire is circulated among students but the students were not verbally instructed or specifically mentioned in written words to fill them up. This is a case of ‘informed consent’ and it is assumed that the students would understand their responsibility and voluntarily complete the research questionnaire. This is an extremely good example of voluntary involvement of subjects in a research by the researchers and it can well be stated that the act comply with the norms of Ethics in Social Science Research”. It should be mentioned that Ethics has often been found to be controversial, complex and perplexing as it clearly defines one’s conscience. Not only does ethics refer to certain basic standards which human beings need to follow, but also to the development of a person’s ethical standards. In this case it is the mode of identification of rights from wrongs in the context of social science research. However, in this case, the options were completely open and free to will. Thus, it should be termed as example of good ethics.
In conclusion, it should be stated that in accordance to Adler and Clark, (2002) ethics is “the set of values, standards, and principles used to determine appropriate and acceptable conduct at all stages of the research process”. (Adler and Clark, p. 41) Thus, in the case of a research it is extremely important to respect the code of ethics and maintain its norms. As in the two cases we see that the researchers maintained their ode of communication aligned with the “Ethics in Social Science Research” and thus they were justified with their actions.
- Adler, Emily Stier and Roger Clark. How It’s Done: An Invitation to Social Research. London: Wadworth, 2003.
- Babbie, Earl. The Basics of Social Research. London: Wadsworth, 2002.
- Nachmias, David and Chava Nachmias.. Research Methods in the Social Sciences. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.