Prospective Research Participants: The research participants for this study should be at least 18 years of age, literate, and have voted in at least one election.
The purpose of this study is to determine which fictitious candidate people would vote for based on various media articles and video presentations about the candidates. Each candidate will view the video presentations and read the short articles and then be asked to vote for their candidate and state why they voted for that particular candidate. The study will take roughly one to two hours from start to finish.
Prior to this study, a quantitative literature review has been conducted reviewing the trends in media reporting coverage for various candidates. These trends and the media messages were then utilized to draft the fictitious candidate reports. The goal is to determine the effect of the media reports in persuading voters.
Risks: This is a blind study and none of the research subjects names will be identified. There are no risks or ethical implications involved in this study, only a time commitment to review the material and pick a candidate. The articles have been designed to follow standard media reporting protocol with a 6th grade literacy and comprehension level for all reading material. If participants are unable to read the newspaper, they should not participate in this study.
Consent: I have read the above requirements and hereby agree to participate in this study.
The ethics of informed consent within research has raised many questions in modern research and study. While quantitative studies still predominate the academic realm, the qualitative study is becoming more common in certain areas including that of feminist study. Many modern feminist authors note the impossibility of accuracy in quantitative studies with women, concluding that the studies are too absent of emotion and too hierarchical to produce accurate results. Rather, feminist authors argue for studies to comprise of a more relational form that allows the researcher to delve deeper into the motives of the research subject and the subject to trust and freely express those opinions with the researcher. It is already established that unlike quantitative studies, qualitative studies use a small amount of research subjects which lends itself further to time spent developing a trusting relationship with the research subject. It is in these studies that informed consent arguably becomes irrelevant and ethical lines often become blurred.
Informed consent is the principle that the public has a right to know and understand the premises of research that they are involving themselves in. It is through informed consent that participants become aware of the full research process as it applies to them and the expectations that will be placed upon them during the research. Those agreeing to the study complete the informed consent form in agreement of all the study entails. For decades it has been argued that informed consent cannot be effectively practiced in all studies, especially those lending themselves to determining biases within social confines. These biases are at the very core of feminist study and often are difficult to surface when informed consent is utilized. The reason is that once a subject becomes aware the researcher's acceptable and unacceptable practices, their behavior changes in response to this understanding (Bhattacharya 1103). As was stated in the reading Qualitative Inquiry, "The failure to know and extract certain information can be an indication of the limits of a framework, methodology, or epistemology" In other words, if the research subject senses limitations within the research model, often presented in the informed consent form, they are less likely to respond in the desired means.
An additional factor within feminist study is that of modern social expectations to avoid sexist preferences due to pressure from the feminist media and movement (Butler 12). Unlike in other studies that simply identify social, physiological, or psychological processes, feminist research is delving into the modern mind and the stereotypes from it. This is one area of the mind where few research subjects will voluntarily delve if the actual implications of a study are known through informed consent.
In my personal study, this holds especially true. In my study, I am seeking to extract from participants a theoretical bias that results from the sexist reporting of political figures in part due to the power of the media in determining political outcomes (Gunther) along with the severely detrimental effect that the media has on women in particular in the political arena (Norris). To reveal this to the participants would be to limit and cause bias within their responses, as the participants would then be looking for a "right" answer based on my personal expectations of them rather than answering based on their own understanding and psychological mindset. Thus, for my particular study, the full motives and background of the study must be carefully phrased to avoid leading participants to my desired answer.
As with all studies, there exists a power relationship. It has been long established by society that a research subject be cooperative and subordinate to the researcher. This role can cause further issues in the responses of the participants. For instance, a subject may be answer questions based on the physical responses (smiles, nods, frowns) of the research administrator. While this problem is often eliminated in quantitative studies where the people asking the questions are equally blind as the subjects, it posses a problem in qualitative research where few subjects and long-term results are required. It is for this reason that the emotional aspects of the research subjects should be equally considered in qualitative studies as biases can often be found within those emotions. In Douglas Ezzy's article, this form of research is known as "communion" as opposed to conquest. According to Ezzy, qualitative studies are more effective when a communion relationship exists between the subjects and the researcher (165).
In my study I would argue that neither a communion or a conquest mentality will be necessary. The reason is that I will limit my personal interaction with participants by instead having candidates focus on the video and articles presented. The interview afterward, while conducted by me, will have me in a role of simply asking questions and videotaping their responses. Thus, I am neither in control of or participating with the research subjects.
All research projects require the strictest adherence to ethics. Without ethics in the research, subjects can be improperly used and results manipulated in ways that result in wasted research time and resources. This holds especially true in feminist research where stereotypes of the woman are already impressed upon the minds of the participants (Mohanty). It is imperative for the researcher to both inform participants of their expected participation along with any limitations that the researcher is placing on the participation. For instance, can participants ask questions, socialize with other participants, or even view other participant's answers or will study be closed to the point that participants remain isolated for the sake of avoiding social pressure.
On the other hand, it is this very objectivity that some feminist researchers argue is detrimental to proper research. According to Reger, it is impossible to eliminate bias during research and still involve emotions within a study. Reger goes further to argue that studies are simply too masculine and fact-based in order to be effective in the qualitative feminist research setting. I disagree with this notion. The reason I disagree is that the purpose of a study is to find trends and links within society to various anomalies. You cannot find trends or links without some determinable fact-based data. Otherwise, the entire study is merely the opinion of the researcher and overly subject to the researcher's bias, or worse, the study actually accomplishes nothing and…