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Education Research Frontier September 2013, Volume 3, Issue 3, PP.


The Roles and Responsibilities of the Educational Researcher

Shiyun Wang1 , Pengju Zhu 2
1. Continuing Education College, College of Journalism and Communication, Hebei University, Baoding, 071000, P.R.China 2. College of Education, Hebei University, Baoding, 071000, P.R.China Email:

In the paper, the focus is on the roles and responsibilities of the educational researcher examined through experiment. As researcher, the roles and responsibilities are very important issues to the successful research. The suitable roles help the researcher to get the valid and the exact data from the investigation. The moral and ethical responsibilities help the researcher to avoid harm others, invade privacy and offend other people during the research. In this paper, the definition of research will be introduced at first. Then the roles and responsibilities of the educational researcher will be discussed respectively. By means of literature review. Numerous literatures and research achievements will be introduced. Keywords: The Roles; the Responsibilities; Educational Researcher

Research is a good method to accelerate the development of a topic, as it can help researchers get useful information as well as give opportunity to improve their research area. Burns commented that Research is a systematic investigation to find answers to a problem. [1] This point has been supported by HenrichsenSmith and Baker, who indicated that research is an organized and systematic way of finding answers to questions. [2] The productions of the research give the new knowledge and direction on how to deal with the community problems to the whole society. Similarly, Wilkinson said that research provides new and intrinsically valuable knowledge or better methods to deal with disease, or more reliable information about how to correct some social problem. [3] Researchers need to consider the two aspects when conducting research. Firstly, they should play appropriate roles to get the valid and the reliable data through a series of investigations. Secondly, they should assume responsibility to think about the ethical and moral issues during the research. Along with the development of the social science, the ethical problems have attracted much attention from researchers. Likewise, Wilkinson commented that research can be a burden, principally to the subjects. It can physically harm them, or invade their privacy, or offend them, and so on. [3] So researchers need to think about the moral and ethical issues when they conduct their research. In the article, the roles and the responsibilities of the educational researcher will be analysed. First of all is the roles of researcher, then followed by some ethical issues. The ethical problems existing in the each stage of the research involve two important aspects of ethical problem that should be discussed----informed consent and privacy. The purpose of the essay is to deepen understanding about the roles and responsibilities of the educational researcher.


As leaders of research, researchers need to possess many abilities, including experience, fairness, knowledge, and honesty which are the most important abilities for researchers. At the same time, the ethical factors of the roles of researcher also are decisive factors to the research. The three ethical aspects concern the roles of researcherscientific responsibility, relation to the subjects, and researcher independence. [4] The scientific responsibility means that researchers must have sufficient knowledge about the research and their profession. With respect to the relation to the subjects, researchers should be good at playing different roles including exploiter, reformer,
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advocate and friend in the process of the research. It is considered that researchers should play different roles in light of the variety of the practical situation in terms of a successful research. For example, when the participants encounter a difficult question, the role of friend provides more comfortable atmosphere to the participants to answer the question and give valid information to researchers. Independence of research can be influenced by the funders of the project and participants. It is very important for researchers to insist on the independence of investigation, otherwise, researchers will make mistake. Likewise, Kvale said that ties to either group may lead the researcher to ignore some findings and emphasize others to the detriment of as full and unbiased and investigation of the phenomena as possible. [4]


Researchers can not ignore ethical problems. They must think about the ethical issues when they conduct the research. The ethical issues influence the process of the research as well as determine whether researchers can achieve a successful research. There are two main ethical issues analysed in following part-informed consent and privacy.


The researchers should respect the free and informed consent. Bournot-Trites&Belanger commented that individual is generally presumed to have the capacity and right to make free and informed decision. [5]Many researchers have analyzed the informed consent. According to Burns, informed consent is basic ethical principle of research, meaning that participants must understand the nature and purpose of the research and must consent to participation without coercion.[1] Cohen, Manion&Morrison considered that the informed consent is the procedures in which individuals choose whether to participate in an investigation after being informed of facts that would be likely to influence their decisions.[6] Wilkinson considered the meaning of the informed consent is that researchers should ask the people whether they want to be participants before the research.[3] After summing up these definitions of the informed consent, it is thought that the informed consent is a very important procedure in the initial step of the research. The researchers must give the information and the purpose of the research to the interviewee as well as gain their permission before investigation. If the people want to be the participants, researchers can do the research with the people; otherwise, researchers cannot do the research with them. For example, if researchers want to conduct interview with students, they must give the information to students and ask the students whether they would like to take part in the interview. According to Cohen, Manion&Morrison, the informed consent contain four aspects that are competence, voluntarism, full information and comprehension, [6] analyzed respectively in following section. Competence means that the people researchers want to choose must have the ability to make correct decision on whether to take part in the research. This ability requires the people to analyze the benefits and risks in the research. In practice, the handicapped or minors have not ability to make correct decision, so their consent should not be accepted by researchers. Cohen, Manion&Morrison, implied that mature individuals will make correct decisions if they are given the relevant information. It is incumbent on researchers to ensure that they do not engage individuals incapable of making such decisions either because of immaturity or some form of psychological impairment.[6] However, as education researchers, they must investigate the educational situation of the children sometimes. The consent of the children is not accepted, so the new problem for researchers is who should give the consent to them. It is regarded that the parents and schools both have responsibility, obligation and right to be informed of the information of the research before the investigation. As education institutions, the schools assume responsibility to provide the safe environment for the children. Researchers should give the research information to the parents and schools who give the informed consent. Meredith, Walter and Joyce said that if the participants are minors, the consent is needed from children main caretaker (usually a parent), and also from appropriate school personnel if the research is carried out in the schools.[7] Voluntarism means that the participants have sufficient freedom to consider whether to join in the research without threat. Wilkinson realized that the voluntarism means whether the consent is voluntary only if it is obtained neither by coercion nor force. [3] Through the study of the definition of voluntarism above, it can be seen that researchers should not threaten people to take part in the research. However, in education research area, the
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teachers, professors or principals have stronger power than the students; and the power is a potential threat to students who do not want to be participants. Burns said that lecturers and professors are in a position of power over students and even though they are not explicit abuse and actually threatening retribution on those students who are not willing to participate. [1] The education researchers should pay attention to these potential threats during research. Full information means that researchers should help the participants realize the all information about the research. However, the research is dynamic process, so it is very difficult to provide all information about the research to the participants. For Cohen, Manion&Morrison full information implies that consent is fully informed, though in practice it is often impossible for researchers to inform all details of subject. [6] It is considered that researchers must assume responsibility to try their best to make the participants realize the all benefits and risks on research although it is difficult. Comprehension means that researchers not only tell the true information to participants, but also reveal the potential information to participants, containing the steps of the research, all possible risk, and so on. The aim is to make the participants understand the research absolutely. Cohen, Manion&Morrison said that researchers need to help participants fully understand what situation they put themselves into. [6]

Privacy concerns the participants right to keep information private and researchers should respect the right of privacy. According to Cohen, Manion&Morrison, the persons physical and mental condition, personal circumstances and social relationships is not public domain, and researchers should give sufficient freedom to the persons to determine whether their personal attitudes, opinion, habits, eccentricities, doubts and fears are to be communicated to or withheld from others.[6] The right of privacy is a very serious issue in the field of law. Burns considered that the privacy is an important right enshrined now in international and national legislation.[1] As researchers, they must pay attention to this point. There are two main ways for protecting the privacy, first of which is confidentiality meaning that researchers should keep the data excluded from the public area. The individual data should not be reported without the permission of participants. According to Cohen, Manion&Morrison, although researchers know who has provided the information or are able to identify participants from the information given, they will in no way make the connection know publicly. [6] The second one is anonymity that is very effective way to protect the privacy. Anthony, Boyer, Dalton said, Complete anonymity is the best way to protect the identities of participants and the information they contribute to as data. [8] In order to protect the participants, the vague name and characteristics are used in the public situation. Researchers should change the name and identifying features of participants or use the no identifying marks to code the individual information. For example, researchers use X or Y to quote the individual data.

The roles and the responsibilities of the education researcher are very important to make a successful investigation. The ethical issues cannot be ignored by researchers. In this article, the roles of researchers have been investigated at first, the followed by the ethical issues in research. In this part, the focus is placed on two main ethical problemsinformed consent and privacy. There are another ethical problems existing in the research domain, for example, betrayal, deception, and so on. These factors also need to be considered for researchers.

[1] [2] Burns, R, B. Introduction to research methods (4th Ed.). Australia: Pearson Education, 2000 Henrichsen, L., Smith, M.Y. & Baker, D.S. Research methods in TESL and Language Acquisition. Electronic library of Waikato University, March 26, 2006. Accessed March 27, 2006. RM_0_01.html [3] [4] Wilkinson, T. M. The core ideas of ethics research. In Research ethics in Aotearoa New Zealand concepts, practice, critique, edited by M. Tolich, 13-24. Auckland: Pearson Education press, 2001 Kvale, S. Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. London: Sage Publications, 1996 - 94

[5] [6] [7] [8]

Bournot-Trites, M. & Belanger, J. Ethical dilemmas facing action researchers. The journal of educational thought 39 (2005):197-216. Cohen, L., Manion, L.&Morrison, K. Research methods in education (5th ed). London: Routledgefalmer, 2000 Meredith D, G., Walter R, B. &Joyce P, G. Educational research: An introduction (6th Ed). USA: Longman, 1996 Anthony, R., Boyer, W., and Dalton, R. Action research: guidelines for teacher/practitioner research. Electronic library of Waikato University, March 26, 2006. Accessed March 27, 2006.


Wang, was born at Baoding city, in 1981. Master

Pengju Zhu, was born at Langfang city, in 1981. Master

degree of education, Education College of Waikato University, Hamilton City, New Zealand in 2007. Doctoral Candidate, College of Journalism and Communication, Hebei University, Baoding City, P.R.China. The mainly research area are education management and journalism education.

degree of education. Education College of Hebei University, Baoding City, P.R.China, in 2008. Doctoral candidate, Education College of Hebei University, Baoding City, P.R.China. The mainly research area is Education history of western country.

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