GE2026 Unit 5
The Ethical Implications of Research & Data Collection Methods
Unit 5 highlights a very important element of conducting research that sometimes can be overlooked by novice researchers: the ethical implications of completing research studies with human subjects. In this unit, you will be asked to critically evaluate the ethical considerations involved in research, in general, as well as in your individual research projects, in particular. The readings, resources, and assignments in this unit aim to help you understand the basic meaning of “ethical behavior,” in a research study, as well as issues to consider regarding the ethical codes of conduct in your field. The CITI training about conducting research with human subjects will give you an opportunity to think carefully about working with human subjects in your studies. In the Research Proposal Assignment, you will be asked, among other things, to clearly articulate the ethical dimensions of you own project including risks and the steps you will take to protect the research participants.
Additionally, this unit asks you to think in specific terms about the method, design, and instrument you will use to collect data in your study and identify these in the Proposed Methods portion of the Research Proposal Assignment. In order to complete the assignment, please review the required readings and resources for this unit in order to gain a clear picture of the types of data collection instruments that may work well for your study and to fully understand the advantage and disadvantages of each of these research instruments. If you plan to collect data via interviews or online surveys, please be sure to include a list of interview or survey questions (with answer anchors for online surveys or questionnaires where appropriate).
Ethics in Research
As cited in the course textbook, from the Collins Dictionary, “ethical” is defined as “in accordance with the principles of conduct that are considered correct, especially those of a given profession or group” (2015, p. 282). Nearly all professional organizations have their own set of mutually agreed upon ethical standards of behavior, and research organizations, regardless of the discipline, have these as well. Although ethical codes vary somewhat by discipline, there are basic principles of ethical behavior that act as guiding principles for your research studies in this course. These include avoiding harming participants in any way, protecting human subjects, avoiding bias, and using information appropriately (p. 283).
There are three key areas highlighted below that you should consider when you begin to think about the ethical implications of your research: (1) the sensitivity of the information being solicited or the topic, (2) the potential to harm participants and the steps involved in protecting your human subjects, and (3) the commitment to maintaining confidentiality. Although there are additional dimensions of ethical conduct that are elaborated upon in the Required Readings for Unit 5, if you understand these three interrelated guiding principles, you will be on your way to constructing a study with a strong ethnical underpinning.
Be aware that even if you do not think that your topic addresses a sensitive issue your participants might think otherwise.
Take measures to make sure that you do not cause anxiety, discomfort, stress, or embarrassment to your participants.
Do No Harm!
One of the best ways to avoid causing anxiety to participants in a research study is to make sure that they complete an Informed Consent. This is a form that provides details on the study’s topic and parameters and is signed by each participant. All students are required to use a consent form in their studies for this course, regardless of the type of method and design selected.
Avoid causing harm to the participants by thinking about the risk involved in answering your survey questions and taking steps to minimizing those risks. For example, do not ask someone to admit to engaging in illegal activities. Also, be careful about how you ask questions and the language and wording you use: do not re- traumatize someone by asking insensitive questions. In some cases, this means avoiding direct questions.
Keep individual respondent’s personal information confidential. (For example, if you send online surveys to participants via email, use the “BCC” function in your email.)
Keep the information provided by respondents as anonymous as possible.
There are additional stakeholders involved in research that should be included when thinking about the ethical dimensions of research studies. You can learn more about these by reading Chapter 14.
Data Collection Methods
Another important topic that is addressed in this unit, and discussed at greater length in the course readings, is data collection. At this stage in the semester, you should determine which particular type of data collection instrument will be most useful to you in reaching your research objectives. Descriptive Quantitative Survey research designs tend to be widely used in this course, in part, because, when carried out properly, they can be a very efficient methodology to use in a short timeframe. Many students use online surveys as the data collection instrument. Other instruments that may work well in this course include written questionnaires, observations, face- to-face interviews, or group interviews. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of instrument (see Chapter 9 from our course textbook and Chapter 4 from Adams and Lawrence in the Unit 4 readings) and you should think critically about these pros and cons prior to identifying which method, design, and instrument you will use in your Research Proposal Assignment.
Guidelines for Writing a Questionnaire or Online Survey
Keep it short. Keep the questions brief and to the point. Keep the questionnaire about 5 minutes in duration.
Include a consent form for all participants. Do not guarantee complete confidentiality to the participants.
Provide clear, specific instructions at the top of the questionnaire.
Make the questions as clear as possible. Do not use confusing language or phrasing.
Be sure that questions contain only one idea. (Avoid questions like the following: Do you think the food served on campus is good and do you wish there were more options?)
Design questions that will provide you with answers to the questions you are studying.
Be sure questions are worded in such a way that they will not influence the answers or make assumptions. (Example: How many packs of cigarettes do you smoke per week? How badly does social media make you feel about your body?)
Questions should move from the least sensitive to the most sensitive; from facts to opinions; from the more
general to the more specific.
Thinking ahead to tabulating responses:
Determine if you want all questions to be “closed” (that is, all respondents select from provided answers) or open-ended (respondents use their own words and provide their own answers). Design the questionnaire or survey accordingly.
Make sure that you can measure the responses. Consider using rating scales as answer choices. Rating scales and yes/no questions are easy for participants to answer and researchers to tabulate in Quantitative Descriptive Survey Research.
Assignments Overview (The Research Proposal & CITI Training)
The Research Proposal
The readings and activities for the previous unit, Unit 4, discussed research designs in detail. As described previously, a research design is the complete plan for operationalizing your study. The Research Proposal, one assignment due for Unit 5, is your research design. In the Research Proposal you will present a detailed plan, or “road map,” for conducting your study. Then, the instructor will evaluate it and must approve it in order for you to move ahead with data collection and implementation.
Specific guidelines for writing a research proposal may vary according to discipline. In this course, the Research Proposal includes two parts: (1) the Revised Problem Statement and (2) Proposed Methodology for your study.
The Revised Problem Statement should include at least one in-text citation from source articles and be revised based on instructor feedback to the previous draft. The Proposed Methodology should provide well written answers to the following questions in paragraph form. It is suggested that you review and answer all of the following questions prior to drafting your Proposed Methodology. You may need to revisit the Required Readings and Resources for Unit 4 to help you answer these questions. Then, use your answers to these questions as the basis for writing the Proposed Methodology portion of your Research Proposal.
Briefly describe the objective and goals of your research project. What you hope to accomplish and why? What is your research question? What is the background of this project?
What are your goals?
What are you looking at?
What is your Research Question?
What is your hypothesis?
What do you want to do?
What method(s) of data collection are you using for this project?
Which approach or approaches (quantitative/qualitative/mixed-methods) do you intend to use for this project? What design will you use?
What scales or instruments are you using for this project? Specify whether you created them or not. If not, where did you find them? For those of you planning an online survey it is recommended that you use create an online survey through Qualtrics. Go to ku.qualtrics.com to create an account and submit a draft of your survey with the Research Proposal assignment. (Many students use the online survey system Qualtrics provided free through Kean University and create questions of their own based on a similar study in their field. If you base your questions on another study, the previous study must be cited in the Proposed Methodology.)
Who are your participants What type of sample population is it? Is it a convenience sample or random sample?
What will the participants be doing? How will recruitment work?
How will they be recruited? How long will the study last for? Where will it be done?
Describe the potential risks and benefits to the student. Describe in detail how confidentiality will be maintained. Where will you keep data?
How will it be kept? Where will it be kept? Describe the limitations of your study.
Describe your researcher’s stance. (Who you are and how it affects your interests in your topic)
Describe the involvement of the human participants in this project. What will they be doing? Who are the participants? How many participants will be involved in the project? Specify how they will be recruited (e.g. advertisements, announcements in class, e-mail, internet, etc.), how long the research will last (the length of each session and the number of sessions) and where it will be conducted?
What are the expected risks and benefits associated with this study? If there are any risks, use the space below to describe how you will minimize or control them.
What are the limitations in your research and methods?
In addition to writing the Research Proposal Assignment (Assignment 1), Unit 5 also requires students to complete the CITI training (Assignment 2) on completing research with human subjects. Please follow the link provided in the Learning Activities and submit a copy of your Course Completion Report.
(CSLO 1, CSLO 1.3, CSLO 2, CSLO 2.1, and CSLO 8)
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GE2026 Unit 5