Research Ethics

This chapter examines the major ethical issues and dilemmas that confront political scientists as they collect, analyze, and publish research data. Initially, it explores the concept of risk when conducting research in the social sciences and outlines the scenarios in which a research topic may represent a threat to participants, communities, or the research team, as well as the principle of ‘do no harm’ as a fundamental guide to research methods. The chapter then traces the evolution of the codification of ethical guidelines in the social sciences and examines in greater detail the key components of the most current instance of this codification: the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2).

The chapter then reviews three interconnected lines of defence around research subjects and respondents raised by the ethical guidelines governing social science research: confidentiality, in-formed consent, and the right to withdraw. After presenting the key features of these three principles, the chapter outlines the step that researchers should take to uphold them, with particular attention given to ethical considerations in research design, data analysis, and the publication of research findings.