Research Ethics

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Short Answer Questions

1. Explain the concept of ‘risk’ and how it influences social science research.

Any potential research gain with respect to description or theory must be carefully weighed against potential risks to research subjects, to the communities from which they are drawn, to the researcher and research team, and to society at large. Although the types of risks in social science research are different from those in the medical sciences, social science research involves human subjects, and cannot escape a concern for the welfare of those subjects.

2. Explain how confidentiality is protected in social science research.

The assurance of respondent confidentiality is a key ethical principle of social science research. In survey research, confidentiality is assured primarily through anonymity; respondents’ names, addresses, and phone numbers are virtually never part of the data record. Research subjects can preserve their anonymity by specifying how their personal information can be used. The protection of confidentiality is often woven into broader procedures designed to ensure informed consent. Simply put, this means that potential participants (or, in the case of minors, their legal representatives) should be fully informed in writing of the nature of the research project, the identity of the researchers, the potential use of the research findings, and any risks to which participants might be exposed.

3. Outline the three core ethical principles of the TCPS 2.

The Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2) establishes a framework of ethical guidelines for research on human subjects by researchers in Canada. The guidelines in this Policy are based on the following three core principles:

  1. Respect for persons: the need to respect participants’ autonomy in research
  2. Concern for welfare: the need to protect the welfare of participants
  3. Justice: the need to treat people fairly and equitably
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