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2.3B: Protecting Research Subjects

  • Page ID
    7924
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    There are many guidelines in place to protect human subjects in sociological research.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Identify the core tenet of research ethics, the importance of research ethics, and examples of ethical practice

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Sociologists have a responsibility to protect their subjects by following ethical guidelines. Organizations like the American Sociological Association maintain, oversee, and enforce a code of ethics for sociologists to follow.
    • In the context of sociological research, a code of ethics refers to formal guidelines for conducting sociological research, consisting of principles and ethical standards.
    • The core tenet of research ethics is that the subjects not be harmed; principles such as confidentiality, anonymity, informed consent, and honesty follow from this premise.
    • Institutional review boards are committees designated to approve, monitor, and review research involving people. They are intended to assess such factors as conflicts of interest and potential emotional distress caused to subjects.
    • Institutional Review Boards are committees designated to approve, monitor, and review research involving people. They are intended to assess such factors as conflicts of interest–for instance, a funding source that has a vested interest in the outcome of a research project–and potential emotional distress caused to subjects.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • informed consent: Informed consent is a phrase often used in law to indicate that the consent a person gives meets certain minimum standards. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts at the time consent is given.
    • confidentiality: Confidentiality is an ethical principle of discretion associated with the professions, such as medicine, law, and psychotherapy.
    • institutional review board: An institutional review board (IRB), also known as an independent ethics committee or ethical review board, is a committee that has been formally designated to approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans.

    Ethical considerations are of particular importance to sociologists because sociologists study people. Thus, sociologists must adhere to a rigorous code of ethics. In the context of sociological research, a code of ethics refers to formal guidelines for conducting research, consisting of principles and ethical standards concerning the treatment of human individuals.

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    Ethical Guidelines for Research Involving Children: Sociologists must follow strict ethical guidelines, especially when working with children or other vulnerable populations.

    The most important ethical consideration in sociological research is that participants in a sociological investigation are not harmed in any way. Exactly what this entails can vary from study to study, but there are several universally recognized considerations. For instance, research on children and youth always requires parental consent. All sociological research requiresinformed consent, and participants are never coerced into participation. Informed consent in general involves ensuring that prior to agreeing to participate, research subjects are aware of details of the study including the risks and benefits of participation and in what ways the data collected will be used and kept secure. Participants are also told that they may stop their participation in the study at any time.

    Institutional review boards (IRBs) are committees that are appointed to approve, monitor, and review research involving human subjects in order to make sure that the well-being of research participants is never compromised. They are thus intended to assess such factors as conflicts of interest–for instance, a funding source that has a vested interest in the outcome of a research project–and potential emotional distress caused to subjects. While often primarily oriented toward biomedical research, approval from IRBs is now required for all studies dealing with humans.