Ethics are the rules of conduct recognised by a particular class of human or a particular group or culture. Many professional bodies value ethics that promote their individual profession. Ethics outline acceptable behaviours and provide member of a particular group with guidelines to work to. The Medical Board of Australia (AMA), for example provides its members with Code of conduct guidelines which
describes what is expected of all doctors registered to practice medicine in Australia. It sets out the principles that characterise good medical practice and makes explicit the standards of ethical and professional conduct expected of doctors by their professional peers and the community. (http://www.medicalboard.gov.au)
Many other professional bodies and government agencies develop their own code of conduct in the area of research. They will usually incorporate guidelines to ensure:-
- honesty in presenting of the findings,
- objectivity and the removal of bias,
- there are no errors in the findings,
- protection of the privacy of those involved in the research,
- intellectual property, patents and copyright guidelines are observed.
It is vitally important that researchers also adhere to ethical standards. The ultimate aim of research is to acquire knowledge in order to make better informed decisions. Participation by individuals in research requires a degree of trust and co-operation. Given the importance of ethics for the conduct of research, it should come as no surprise that many professional bodies, government agencies and universities have adopted specific codes, rules, and policies based on the above sample guidelines relating to research.
As a researcher, you must always behave in an ethical way. It is good practice to always inform the participants of the purpose of your research and ensure they are confident that their confidentiality will be maintained. You may develop a system to ensure your findings will remain confidential.
It is very important to be constantly considering the validity of results when designing your questionnaires, surveys, experiments or making observations to ensure your research is not bias in anyway.
Your research could take the form of information research. This is a method of research where you gather information provided from others in the form of paper (Books, magazines etc.) or electronic media (Internet source, eBooks etc.). It is still an ethical requirement for you to acknowledge the source of this information. It is illegal to copy others work and claim it to be your own.
Activity to complete
Amanda has decided to design a set of boxes for under bed storage in smaller bedrooms. As part of her research, she wants to get a better understanding of the types of objects people currently store under their beds to determine the most appropriate size for the boxes. She has decided that she would need at least 20 respondents to get a useful survey result. She has given the survey forms to a number of people in her target market and has received 15 responses so far. As she needs to complete this task, she has decided not to wait for the remaining 5 surveys and will make up the final 5 responses.
Activity – Discuss this scenario from an ethical view point. What would you have done in this situation?