Ethical factors influencing the choice of research method

  • Created by: holly6901
  • Created on: 29-12-19 19:34

Consent and anonymity

  • It is important the research subjects know that research is being carried out on them and they know its aims and objectives.
  • The British Sociological Association insists informed consent must be given by the participants.
  • The sociologist should avoid deception e.g lying to the participants
  • Participants should be offered anonymity and be reassured of confidentiality, especially when discussing something personal.
  • Sociological research is intrusive so the participant's privacy is important.
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Putting people at harm

Sociologists need to avoid harming their research subjects and this is why laboratory experiments are not popular. There are 3 types of harm.

  • Physical harm - if a research subject, such as a gang member, can be identified by others because confidentiality was not maintained, they may be subjected to physical harm
  • Emotional or psychological harm - sociological research should avoid opening old emotional wounds and causing further psychological trauma.
  • Professional harm - If a subject can be identified because confidentiality was not upheld, they might lose their job, be bullied at work or have their reputation damaged.

The lead sociologist also needs to avoid any immoral or illegal activities and make sure none of their team is harmed in any way.

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  • Not all sociologists agree with the rules about informed consent and deceit. The preferred method of interpretivist research is covert observation, which involves deceit. They argue the deceit is justified because the rich results obtained are more valid than those obtained from more overt methods.
  • Some interpretivist sociologists do not agree they should not participate in immoral acts as if they are using participant observation they may have to commit petty crimes to gain their trust.
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