Ethical issues involving human subjects

In Creswell (2013), it is stated that ethical issues can occur at all phases of the study (prior to the study, in the beginning, during data collection, analysis, and reporting).  Since we deal with data from people about people, we as researchers need to protect our participants and promote the integrity of research by guarding against misconduct and improperly reflecting the data.  Because we deal with people, it is our obligation to assure that interviewees do not get harmed as a result of our research (Rubin, 2012). The following anticipated risks are from Crewell (2013) and Rubin (2012):

  • Prior to conducting the study
    • We must seek an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval before we conduct a study.
    • I must gain local permission from the agency, organization, corporation for which the study will take place and from the participants to conduct this study.
  • Beginning the study
    • We will not pressure participants to sign consent forms. To make sure that you have high participation rates, you need to make sure that the purpose of this study is compelling enough that the participants will see that it would be a value-added experience to them as well as to the field of study that they don’t want to say no.
      • We should also conduct an informal needs assessment to ensure that the participant’s needs are addressed in the study, to ensure a high participation rate.
      • But, we will tell the participants that they have the right not to sign the consent form.
    • Collecting data
      • Respecting the site and keep disruption to a minimum, especially if I am conducting observations. The goal of the observation in this study is not to be an active participant, but taking field notes of key interactions that occur while the participants are doing what they need to do.
      • Make sure that all the participants in the study receive the same treatment to avoid data quality issues while collecting it.
      • We should be respectful and straightforward to the participants.
      • Discuss the purpose of this study and how the data will be used with the participants is key to establishing trust and this would allow them to start thinking about the topic of the study. This can be accomplished by sending them an email prior to the interview as to the purpose of the study and the time we are requesting of them.
      • As we are asking our interviewing questions, we should avoid leading questions. That is why questions may be asked in a particular order.  In some cases, questions can build on one another.
      • We should avoid sharing personal impressions. Given that we know what the final questions in the interview are, as we should ask them questions while not giving any indication of what we are looking for so that they don’t end up contaminating our data.
      • Avoid disclosing sensitive or proprietary information.
    • Analyzing data
      • Avoid only disclosing one set of results, thus we must report on multiple perspectives and report contrary findings.
      • Keeping the privacy of the participants, assuring that the names have been removed from the results as well as any other identifying indicators.
      • Honor promises, if I offer to the participant a chance to read and correct their interviews, I should do so as soon as possible after the interview.
    • Reporting, sharing and storing data
      • Avoid situations where there is a temptation to falsify evidence, data, findings or conclusions. This can be accomplished through using unbiased language appropriate for audiences.
      • Avoid disclosing harmful information of the specialist.
      • Be able to have data in a shareable format, however with keeping the privacy of the specialist as the main priority, while keeping the raw data and other materials for 5 years in a secure location. Part of this data should consist of the complete proof of compliance, IRB, lack of conflict of interest, for if and when that is requested.

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