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Dissertations 4: Methodology: Ethics

Research Ethics

In the research context, ethics can be defined as "the standards of behaviour that guide your conduct in relation to the rights of those who become the subject of your work, or are affected by it" (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p239).  

The University itself is guided by the fundamental principle that research involving humans and /or animals and/or the environment should involve no more than minimal risk of harm to physical and psychological wellbeing.  

Thus, ethics relates to many aspects of your research, including the conduct towards: 

  • The participants of your primary research (experiments, interviews etc). You will need to explain that participation is voluntary, and they have the right to withdraw at any time. You will need the participants' informed consent. You will need to avoid harming the participants, physically as well as mentally. You will need to respect the participants’ privacy and offer the right to anonymity. You will need to manage their personal data confidentially, also according to legislation such as the Data Protection Act 2018. You will need to be truthful and accurate when using the information provided by the participants.  

  • The authors you have used as secondary sources. You will need to acknowledge their work and avoid plagiarism by doing the proper citing and referencing. 

  • The readers of your research. You will need to exercise the utmost integrity, honesty, accuracy and objectivity in the writing of your work.   

  • The researcher. You will need to ensure that the research will be safe for you to undertake. 

Your research may entail some risk, but risk has to be analysed and minimised through risk  assessment. Depending on the type of your research, your research proposal may need to  be approved by an Ethics Committee, which will assess your research proposal in light of the  elements mentioned above. Again, you are advised to use a research methods book for further guidance.  

Research Ethics Online Course

Find out how to conduct ethical research when working with people by studying this online course for university students. Course developed by the University of Leeds.