Discuss the ethical issues that need to be considered when you (1) design a research project, (2) collect data, and (3) analyze and report data.
When a research project is designed, data is collected, and then the data is analyzed and reported, there are a number of ethical issues that have to be carefully considered. Unfortunately, many researchers who are inexperienced are not clear on how they should address the issues that surround the collection of data (Cohen & Arieli, 2011). That is especially true if the project requires the researcher to collect data from human subjects, as there are additional points that have to be raised and more care that has to be taken (Gorard, 2013; Kara, 2012). The design of the research project should take that into account, and should work with that information from the beginning so that there are no surprises in the future. Without the proper preparation, it can be very difficult for a researcher to collect the data properly, creating further problems when analysis is attempted. This issue can be controlled for at the beginning of the planning phase of the project with proper techniques.
Here the actual design of a project will be addressed, along with the specific ways that data are collected and how that data is analyzed and reported on -- all within the context of remaining as ethical as possible. Ethics in research are a significant part of every study, as they always have to be considered. Some studies have far fewer ethical considerations, because they do not work with human subjects. Other studies require information from people, and when that is necessary there are ethical problems that can arise (Creswell, 2008; Freshwater, Sherwood, & Drury, 2006). Researchers who are not ethical can cause problems with the study, but can also cause difficulties for the people who were willing to participate in the study. These participants need to know that the information they provide will be protected, or they will be much less likely to want to participant -- and that can lead to problems for the study based on the sample size the researcher needs.
Research Project Design
The first issue to be considered when it comes to ethics in research studies is the design of the project itself. A research project can be designed to be qualitative or quantitative, but there is more to the issue than just that. Additionally, there are considerations such as whether human subjects will be used for the study (Rocco, Hatcher, & Creswell, 2011). If participants' information is going to be collected, there are several ways that can be done. They all have their ethical implications. If the study is going to go forward based on a review of past literature, and is not going to contain information regarding any new subjects, then ethics are not a serious concern (Gorard, 2013). Researcher would have a difficult time being unethical by analyzing past studies and creating a literature review on which their current study would be based. However, when human participants are used in the study, there is much more that has to be considered from the standpoint of ethics. This is among the most important considerations in the research project design.
The creation of a research project does not have to be difficult, conceptually. However, it can and does take time and effort to create a project with which one feels comfortable. That is especially true if there are going to be human subjects used in the study. The number of subjects used, where they will come from, and what they will be asked all has to be addressed as part of the project (Cohen & Arieli, 2011). These are areas with which some researchers struggle when it comes to how to act ethically. It is not that these researchers strive to be deliberately unethical, but only that they focus on what they want to get from the study and do not always take how they will get that information into account (Cohen & Arieli, 2011). Additionally, they may not be clear on what they need to do in order to get the information from the participants and still protect privacy.
In order to make sure the research project is conducted ethically and properly from the planning stages, there are several things that must be considered. These will have to be addressed before the data collection can be planned and before the study can move forward, in order to ensure proper procedures. To ensure proper planning for the study from an ethical standpoint, the research should ask and answer the following questions when he or she is creating a research study plan.
How many participants will be used in the study?
The larger the sample size, the more likely the study will be accurate when it comes to a representation of the population which the study is designed to represent (Freshwater, Sherwood, & Drury, 2006). However, that does not mean that a researcher should strive to have thousands of people as a sample size. That is often not realistic, and can slow down the study itself. There are also often differences in the sample sizes used by those who are in university and required to perform a study and those who are doing so for publication and/or throughout the scientific community. Regardless, the research plan cannot go forward until the researcher has determined the number of people who are going to be included in the sample size and determined (and justified) why this is a proper size for the sample for that particular study (Gauch, 2003; Gorard, 2013).
How will the information be collected?
Different ways of collecting information can open up different ethical conundrums. If the information is collected anonymously, that can keep the participants more protected. However, sometimes studies need to have at least basic demographic information from the participants, and other studies need more specific information about their participants (Rocco, Hatcher, & Creswell, 2011). This would be more logical, for example, during a case study research project, where very few participants would be used and more personal information about each participant would be known.
How long will information collection take?
The length of time it takes to collect information from the participants can affect the study (Cohen & Arieli, 2011; Creswell, 2008). If a researcher has to spend hours with a few individuals for a case study the way the researcher relates to those people will likely be very different than the way he or she would relate to hundreds of people taking a 10-minute, anonymous survey (Creswell, 2008). That is important to note, because researchers do not want to become too close emotionally to the subjects of their research. That can present ethical problems and sway the way a researcher collects and provides information, which could render the study invalid.
What disclaimers or other information will be needed?
For participants who are asked to provide personal or demographic information, assurance must be provided that the information is not going to be misused or provided to others (Creswell, 2008). This is vital to a study, and has to be done in order to protect the participants. It would be deeply unethical to take participant information and provide it to others who were not a part of the research team for the study, as that could compromise the identity of the participants and even provide them with grounds for a lawsuit (Cohen & Arieli, 2011). Many universities and other institutions where research is conducted require specific forms to be filled out, detailing the information the researcher will be collecting from human subjects, and why that information is important to the study (Creswell, 2008). Until the form has been approved, the research cannot go forward. This protects the institution, the researcher, and the participants from ethical problems.
The actual collection of the data is where most ethical dilemmas arise (Cohen & Arieli, 2011; Creswell, 2008). However, these problems can be avoided with proper preparation. As mentioned previously, most institutions have required forms and other informational documents that have to be filled out and approved before the data collection process can begin. This is done as a protective measure, and designed to protect everyone involved in the study. Still, it is only a piece of paper, and things can go wrong. That is why the researcher must be very careful with the actual data collection, and must use the method that is most appropriate for the study (Rocco, Hatcher, & Creswell, 2011). There are several methods of data collection that must be addressed here. These are the most common methods, although there are hybrid and combination choices used for some studies.
Case studies are the most involved and in-depth type of data collection done in research, and provide the highest opportunity for difficulties with ethics (Creswell, 2008; Kara, 2012). When a researcher studies only a few people over the course of time, he or she…