Ethical Research Every researcher has an obligation to plan and implement an ethically sound research project. Your doctoral research project must meet hig

Ethical Research Every researcher has an obligation to plan and implement an ethically sound research project. Your doctoral research project must meet hig

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Every researcher has an obligation to plan and implement an ethically sound research project. Your doctoral research project must meet high standards for ethical conduct, particularly with respect to the treatment of human subjects participating in your study. 

In this self-study module, access the PowerPoint presentation below and review the information, clicking through to the various video and web-based resources embedded in the presentation.

Then, in the discussion forum below, evaluate the Nuremberg Code, the “Common Rule,” and the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, and answer the following questions:

  • What do these ethical guidelines have in common?
  • What are the over-arching principles in the three sets of guidelines that apply to the treatment of human research participants?
  • Of these, which resonate most strongly for you as a graduate student researcher?

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In-Residence II
Ethical Principles in

Research

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Ethical Principles of the Research Process

• According to the American Psychological Association
(Smith, 2003), there are five principles to help
researchers avoid ethical conflicts
◦ Discuss Intellectual Property Frankly
◦ Be Conscious of Multiple Roles
◦ Follow Informed Consent Rules
◦ Respect Confidentiality and Privacy
◦ Tap Into Ethics Resources

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PRINCIPLE 1

• Discuss intellectual property frankly
• Make sure to give credit when credit is due in your

research

• This means to always cite sources for ideas and thoughts
• This also means to provide a complete reference list of

all works referenced in your writing

3

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Principle 2

• Be conscious of multiple roles
• Conflicts of interest can have a negative effect on the

research process

• Make sure to investigate roles and relationships to
ensure there is no conflict of interest

• When having a dual relationship, where one role is being
a researcher, make sure potential participants do not feel
compelled to participate because of the nature of their
relationship with you (such as being your friend, family
member, student, employee or work colleague)

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Principle 3

• Follow informed consent rules
• Ensuring that participants have complete information

about the proposed nature of the study and that they
have given informed consent is a critical part of the
research process

• Informed consent ensures that participants understand
the specifics of the research and any associated risks, and
that they agree to participate without coercion

• Informed consent allows the participant a choice to
participate in the research or to quit at any time

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Principle 4

• Respect confidentiality and privacy
• In your informed consent, be sure to discuss your

practices for assuring confidentiality of the participants
and the data you collect from them, as well as how you
will use data you collect

• As a researcher, you should understand the limitations of
your research and not ask more than what is required to
complete your study; this includes limiting demographic
information only to that which is absolutely necessary to
conduct your study

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Principle 5

• Tap into ethics resources
• According to Smith, “One of the best ways researchers

can avoid and resolve ethical dilemmas is to know both
what their ethical obligations are and what resources
are available to them” (2003, p. 38)

• Examples of ethical errors made (both intentionally
and unintentionally) during research studies that have
harmed participants are all too common

• Review these stories to help learn what not to do

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Ethical Considerations

• The most important consideration for researchers
who will be working with human subjects is
protecting research participants from harm

• Studying past human rights violations gives us a
background to the development of processes such
as Institutional Review Boards and documents such
as the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and
Code of Conduct

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Examples of Unethical Research

• Nazi Concentration Camp Experiments
• Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments
• Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiment
• Stanford Prison Experiment

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Nazi Concentration Camp Experiments

• Experiments were conducted on thousands of Jewish
prisoners and disabled German nationals

• Experiments fell into four categories: mass sterilization
experiments, drug treatment testing, survival tests in
extreme conditions, and genealogy experiments

• Ethical considerations include: treatment of political
prisoners, conducting research without informing
participants of the risks, conducting experiments on human
subjects without consent, risks that outweigh benefits to
participants

• Learn more about Nazi Medical Experiments:
https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=100
05168

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Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

• Some human rights violations have occurred here in the U.S.
• From 1932 to 1972, U.S. researchers intentionally exposed

poor black men in Alabama to syphilis for the purpose of
studying the effects of this disease on the human body

• 400 participants were unknowingly infected with syphilis and
were then told they were being treated for “bad blood”

• Those infected were not given proper treatment needed to
cure the disease

• Participants were allowed to die, despite the availability of
generally accepted treatment, so that researchers could study
the effects of syphilis on the body

• For an overview click the link below
https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm

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Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiment

• In the early 1960s, Yale psychologist, Stanley Milgram,
conducted an experiment in which he tested the willingness
of people to submit to authority

• The participants were required to administer electrical
shocks to another person

• In reality, no shocks were applied, but participants thought
they were administering increasingly painful and potentially
lethal shocks to another human

• Over 60% of subjects obeyed the experimenter’s commands
to continue and gave the maximum “shock” of 450 volts

• For an overview, see:
http://www.apa.org/research/action/order.aspx
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek4pWJ0_XNo

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Stanford Prison Experiment
• In 1971, Stanford psychologist, Phillip Zimbardo, conducted

an experiment of prison behavior using male college students
• Some participants were assigned to be “guards” and they

enforced harsh measures and ultimately subjected the
“prisoners” to psychological trauma

• Other participants were assigned to be “prisoners” and most
passively accepted the abuse dealt them by the “guards”

• Zimbardo, in his role as “prison superintendent,” allowed the
abuse to continue when he didn’t stop the experiment
despite the escalation in obvious harm

• For an overview see:

http://www.prisonexp.org/

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Ethical Protections

• As a result of these egregious cases and others, a series of
responses to the ethical treatment of human subjects emerged:
• Nuremburg Code

http://www.imarcresearch.com/blog/bid/359393/Nurembe
rg-Code-1947
https://history.nih.gov/research/downloads/nuremberg.pdf

• Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects:
“Common Rule”
https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-
policy/regulations/common-rule/index.html

• American Psychological Association Ethical Principles of
Psychologists and Code of Conduct
http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/

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Homework: Your Reflections

• Review the materials in this presentation on research ethics
• Study the Nuremberg Code, the “Common Rule” and the APA

Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

• What do these ethical guidelines have in common?
• What are the over-arching principles that apply to the

treatment of human research participants?

• Of these, which resonate most strongly for you as a
graduate student researcher?

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References

Smith, D. (2003). Five principles for research ethics.
Monitor, 34(1). American Psychological Association.
http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan03/principles.aspx

  • In-Residence II�Ethical Principles in Research
  • Ethical Principles of the Research Process
  • PRINCIPLE 1
  • Principle 2
  • Principle 3
  • Principle 4
  • Principle 5
  • Ethical Considerations
  • Examples of Unethical Research
  • Nazi Concentration Camp Experiments
  • Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
  • Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiment
  • Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Ethical Protections
  • Homework: Your Reflections
  • References

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