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THE ETHICS AND

POLITICS OF SOCIAL
RESEARCH

Chapter Outline

Ethical Issues in Social Research


Two Ethical Controversies
The Politics of Social Research
Quick Quiz

Ethical Issues in Social


Research

Ethical (Websters) Conforming to the


standards of conduct of a given
profession or group.

Voluntary Participation

No one should be forced to participate.

Balance of science and ethics?

Possible?

No Harm to the Participants

People being researched should never be


injured (physically, mentally, emotionally,
socially, psychologically).

Examples: Tuskegee Syphilis Study,


Stanford Prison Experiment

Possible to eliminate 100% of risk?

Informed Consent A norm in which


subjects based their voluntary participation
in research projects on a full understanding
of the possible risk involved.

Sources of harm

Anonymity and Confidentiality

Anonymity Guaranteed in a research


project when neither the researchers nor
the readers of the findings can identify a
given response with a given respondent.

Confidentiality Guaranteed when the


research can identify a given persons
responses but promises not to do so
publicly.

Deception

Deception within social research needs to


be justified by scientific or administrative
concerns.

Debriefing Interviewing subjects to learn


about their experience of participation in
the project.

Analysis and Reporting

Ethical obligation to colleagues in the


scientific community.

All results must be reported (positive and


negative).

All limitations must be admitted.

Institutional Review Boards A panel of


faculty who review all research proposals
involving human subjects so that they
can guarantee that the subjects rights
and interests will be protected.

Exceptions

Professional Code
of Ethics

Two Ethical Controversies

Trouble in the Tearoom Laud Humphreys

Studied homosexual activities in public


restrooms in parks
Researcher became interested in the lives of
participants
Researcher volunteered to become
watchqueen
Researcher collected personal information
about the participants (license numbers of
cars)
Which ethical issues are in question?

Observing Human Obedience Stanley


Milgram

Participants imitated a laboratory-based


World War II controversy
Participants were assigned job of teacher
to teach a list of works to the pupil. If
the pupil got the word wrong, the teacher
would administer increasing levels of
shocks to the pupil.
Which ethical issues are in question?

The Politics of Social Research

The ethics of social research deal mostly


with the methods employed.
Political issues tend to center on the
substance and use of research.
There are no formal codes of acceptable
political conduct, while there are formal
codes of conduct for social research.

Objectivity and Ideology

Science achieves objectivity through


intersubjectivity.

Weber (1925): sociology needs to be


unencumbered by personal values if it is to
make a special contribution to society.

Race
Sexual research
Census

Politics with a Little p

Social research in relation to contested


social issues cannot remain antiseptically
objective.

Politics in Perspective
1.
2.
3.

4.

Science is not untouched by politics.


Science does proceed in the midst of political
controversy and hostility.
An awareness of ideological considerations
enriches the study and practice of social
research methods.
Whereas researchers should not let their own
values interfere with the quality and honesty
of the research, this does not mean that
researchers cannot or should not participate in
public debates.

Source:

Babbie, Earl (
Research

) The Practice of Social

Quick Quiz

1. _____ is a norm in which subjects base


their voluntary participation in research
projects on a full understanding of the
possible risks involved.
A. Research participation
B. The Hawthorne effect
C. Informed consent
D. The code of ethics

ANSWER: C.
Informed consent is a norm in which
subjects base their voluntary
participation in research projects on a
full understanding of the possible risks
involved.

2. Though the norm of voluntary


participation is important, it is often
A. justifiably violated
B. not received
C. impossible to follow
D. all of the above

ANSWER: D.
Though the norm of voluntary
participation is important, it is often
justifiably violated, not received, and
impossible to follow.

3. Ethics are not a consideration in which


one of the following fields of research?
A. natural sciences
B. psychology
C. medicine
D. sociology
E. None of the above they all require
ethical considerations.

ANSWER: E.
Ethics enters in all of these fields: natural
sciences, psychology, medicine, and
sociology.

4. The major justification social scientists


have for requesting participation in a study is
that
A. it may help the respondent.
B. it may help all humanity.
C. it may help the social scientist.
D. it may help government officials make
policy decisions.
E. it may help improve the educational
system.

ANSWER: B.
The major justification the social scientists
has for requesting participation in a
study is that it may help all humanity.

5. The controversy surrounding Laud


Humphreys study of homosexuals
suggests that he most violated which of
the following ethical principles?
A. anonymity and confidentiality
B. harm to subjects and data reporting
without identification
C. concealed identify or researcher and
anonymity
D. harm to subjects and anonymity

ANSWER: D.
The controversy surrounding Laud
Humphreys study of homosexuals
suggest that he most violated the ethical
principle of harm to subjects and
anonymity.

6. Which of the following is not a difference


between ethical and political aspects of social
research?
A. Ethical considerations are more objective
than political considerations.
B. Ethical aspects include a professional code
of ethics, whereas political aspects do not.
C. Ethics deal more with methods, whereas
political issues deal with substance.
D. Ethical norms have been established,
whereas political norms have not been
established.

ANSWER: A.
The following is not a difference between
ethical and political aspects of social
research: Ethical considerations are
more objective than political
considerations.