Ethical Issues and Issues of Sensitivity in Sociological Research
Ethical issues are the considerations that can have an important
influence on the research process. They are moral principles- beliefs
about what is right and wrong, which often guide research.
Sociological associations in many countries have a set of ethical
guidelines for conducting research. There are six main ethical issues;
I will explore them below.
Sensitive issues are issues that need to be dealt with tactfully
because of their subject matter.
This could include subjects such as
death, health issues, sex etc. These are potentially sensitive
subjects as the people being researched may have had an unpleasant
situation with them.
The first ethical issue I will investigate is “informed consent”. This
is the idea that those the researchers are studying should be given
the opportunity to agree or refuse to participate in the research.
This means covert observation could not take place, as this involves
not letting people know they are being observed. Informed consent
means that the researcher must provide information about the aims of
the research, what the conduct of the research involves and the
purpose to which the research will be put.
This issue was raised when
James Patrick did his research on “A Glasgow Gang Observed”. This
involved him becoming part of a “gang”, only one member of the gang
knew he was a researcher undercover. From spending time with the
group, he gained information about what they did, what their attitudes
were and how far they were willing to go e.g. breaking the law. This
research did not involve informed consent, as the majority of .
.o depends on
what sort of person the researcher is, are they highly principled? Or
are they willing to cut a few corners to make their research easier or
more accurate? How strict a researcher is can definitely benefit/ruin
their research. Telling the complete truth to participants about the
research could undermine the research or cause research problems, as
if the participants know they are being observed it could cause them
to act very differently. A lot of issues are not straightforward, some
conflict and often need a great deal of thought put into them. To do
completely accurate and valid research, the balance between respecting
participants’ privacy, not deceiving them, being careful not to put
them at risk of harm and making sure the data collected is true has to
be right, and this is a difficult balance to get.