Ethical research Standards
The need to expand knowledge scope through research is becoming a trend within the scholarly realm. Both students and field experts are continuously doing sociological research talking to people, interviewing them, seeking their opinions, asking them to fill questionnaires and surveys as well as collecting both qualitative and quantitative data. Although the concept of research has been in existence from classical times, modern research emphasizes ethical standards. Current research ethics act as guidelines to govern the criterion for sociological research. Any research that involves human beings needs to adhere to strict ethical standards to protect the identity of subjects. Failure to stick to ethical considerations may result in psychological and physical harm to subjects. This self-reflection paper will focus on the necessity of strict ethical research standards with considerations on the meaning of sociological research, how it is conducted in relation to existing academic literature.
Conducting Sociological Research
Sociological research is a kind of research done by social scientists concerning human societies, its trends and patterns. It involves questioning the world that human beings have created and lived in. The sociological research employs scientific methods of research in data collection and making empirical conclusions. This research involves interacting with people to collect data, and thus ethical considerations are an important aspect in every stage.
The first step in conducting a sociological research is selecting a research topic and involves formulating a research question which guides the researcher through the entire research process which involves defining the research problem by clearly and evidently stating the problem or knowledge gap you have noted and wanted to address. The researcher should choose a topic that will not negatively portray subjects and participants or a group of people, causing them harm.
The second process is reviewing the literature and formulating a hypothesis. Hypothesizing involves relating the sociological research topic to existing scholarly papers, knowledge and other theoretical and methodological contributions earlier studied. Formulating hypothesis is providing an academic explanation for the observed topic.
Choosing the research method and collecting data is the next step. The nature of data to be collected, access to subjects, resources and the objectives the research informs the type of research method to be used. Research methods may be questionnaires, surveys, participant observation, interviews and experiment among others. The selected method is then used to collect data which may either be qualitative or quantitative. It is the point where the researcher comes into contact with subjects and participants; ethical codes come in handy at this stage since the identity of participants must be kept confidential unless there is mutual agreement to keep it public.
The final step is analyzing the data and making conclusions from the analysis. Data analysis is the process of examining, inspecting, transforming, interpreting, cleansing and modelling data to discover useful information to help in decision-making and drawing an empirical conclusion which is done using statistical tools such as mean, standard deviation, graphs, charts and other useful software. This data should be kept confidential before and after analysis. A conclusion is then made from the analysis, and it can later be disseminated to the scholarly world.
The ethical standard must closely adhere when dealing with subjects especially during the data collection stage of the research. The present research ethics is a summative product of years of reforms and modification which have constantly been refined to achieve a blend which not only protects the participants but also ensures that the ethical considerations do not alter collected data. Ethical guidelines to be followed during research are confidentiality, anonymity and consent (Bryman, 2016).
Any researcher should seek the consent of participants before collecting any data from them, meaning that the investigator is required to explain to the participants the purpose of the research and be informed that they have the right to give or withdraw their consent at any time during the research. Ethical issues arise if the researcher does not follow this (Pollock, 2017).
Additionally, the participants should not be identified by an address, name or any characteristic that may directly point out to them. No photograph or participants real name should be used lest the ethical code will be breached. The subjects must remain anonymous during the entire research
Subjects’ information should be kept confidential with limited access. The researcher should not disclose the participants’ information to a third party. If needed pseudonyms may be used to disguise the identity of participants (Pollock, 2017).
Finally, without strict ethical research
standards, the risk of destructive disclosure on participants is imminent. The
codes restrict the researcher from research procedures that may harm
participants physically and psychologically. The future of sociological
research will otherwise be in jeopardy if
ethical considerations are breached.
Nevertheless, unlike in the past where deception, dishonesty, threat and
disclosure openly manifested in sociological research, these malpractices have
been addressed by ethical codes which now are universally applicable. More
scholarly research should, however, be
done on ethical standards to give practical guidance on ethics.
Bryman, A. (2016). Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pollock, J. (2017). Crime and Criminal Justice in America. Taylor & Francis.