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Ethics and Politics of Social Research. Mary Cassatt: Breakfast in Bed, 1894. Ethical Issues in Social Research Voluntary Participation Subjects must agree to reveal information about themselves. Subjects must be able to provide informed consent.

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Ethics and Politics of Social Research

Mary Cassatt: Breakfast in Bed, 1894.

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Ethical Issues in Social Research

  • Voluntary Participation
    • Subjects must agree to reveal information about themselves.
    • Subjects must be able to provide informed consent.
    • Behavior observed in public settings is assumed to imply agreement to being observed.
    • Subjects contacted after being observed in a public setting must be informed they were observed in a public setting.
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Ethical Issues in Social Research

  • No Harm to Subjects
    • Subjects must be free from reasonably anticipated physical or emotional harm.
    • Subjects must be informed of the manifest content of the information they will be asked to reveal about themselves.
    • It is permissible to deceive subjects, as long as the deception cannot be anticipated to create physical or emotional harm.
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Ethical Issues in Social Research

  • Anonymity
    • Both the researcher and the public cannot identify the subject.
    • Anonymity often is not required during data collection, but sometimes is preferred.
      • The “double-blind” experiment.
    • Typically, identifiers must be removed from the data after collection is complete.
      • The exception would be for longitudinal data collection.
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Ethical Issues in Social Research

  • Confidentiality
    • The public cannot identify the subject.
    • Confidentiality nearly always is required.
    • Social scientists are mandatory reporters of child abuse and capital crimes.
    • A Federal Certificate of Confidentiality can help protect researchers from revealing the identity of subjects involved in criminal activities, except capital crimes.
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Ethical Issues in Social Research

  • Deception: Identity of Researcher to Subjects
    • Sometimes, it can be important for researchers to conceal their identity to subjects.
      • This type of deception can raise serious concerns about informed consent.
  • Deception: Identity of Research Purpose
    • It is common in laboratory experiments to reveal the full nature of the research purpose.
    • Debriefing involves informing subjects of full research purpose after data collection is completed.
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Ethical Issues in Social Research

  • Institutional Review Boards
    • “Human Subject Committees” decide if research is ethical.
    • Ethics is an evolving issue.
    • Learn more and take the test! Click here:
    • Guidelines for Human Subjects Research
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Ethical Issues in Social Research

  • Required Elements for Consent
    • Purpose of study.
    • How respondent was selected.
    • Results will be used for research and [other].
    • Voluntary participation in the study or any part of it.
    • Respondent can keep any incentives if they withdraw from the study.
    • Confidentiality of responses.
    • Contact information of the researcher.
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Ethical Issues in Social Research

  • Professional Ethics
    • Reporting of findings.
    • Credit for findings.
    • Plagiarism.
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The Politics of Social Research

  • Objectivity and Ideology
    • Verstehen: Value-free scientific inquiry.
    • Research and bias.
      • Racial, gender, political, religious.
    • The expert witness.
  • The Sociologist as Person
    • Basic research, applied research, and advocacy.