OU blog

Personal Blogs

H809: Activity 6.4, 6.5, 6.7 Ethics Policy

Visible to anyone in the world

H809: Activity 6.4 Research Ethics Policy Documents

Ethics principles for research involving human participants

Principle 1: Compliance with protocol

Principle 2: Informed consent

Principle 3: Openness and integrity

Principle 4: Protection from harm

Principle 5: Confidentiality

Principle 6: Professional codes of practice and ethics


H809: Activity 6.5 Exploring Ethical Issues Associated with Online Research

Diversity of views is mentioned. I am not sure I agree that the diversity of views is due to the fact that it is a new field. I have worked in sports coaching in the past and I currently work in student support and so I have attended many training sessions in ethics. I have always been surprised at the diversity of views on how to approach situations. Most trainings are carried out along the lines of discussions on how to approach various situations and people's views depend on many factors including culture and heritage.

Lurking. My daughter was involved with a very responsible website which supported young people involved in self-harm. I remember vividly how upset and betrayed she felt when a researcher, who had joined the site and been welcomed by the members, finally disclosed that she was involved in research. The harm caused was enormous as the members were no longer sure who they could trust. This was a well respected site, unlike some of the others, and it provided a great deal of support to young people and their parents but it closed a few months after this incident.

According to Eysenbach and Till (2001), the following issues should be discussed before studying an internet community:

  1. Intrusiveness. Discuss the extent to which the research is intrusive (will it involve passive analysis of internet postings or more active involvement in the community by participating?);
  2. Perceived privacy. Discuss (preferably in consultation with members of the community) the level of perceived privacy of the community (Is it a closed group requiring registration? What is its membership size? What are the group norms?);
  3. Vulnerability. Discuss how vulnerable the community is (for example, a mailing list for victims of sexual abuse or HIV/AIDS may be a vulnerable community);
  4. Potential harm. As a result of the above, discuss whether the intrusion of the researcher or publication of the results has potential to harm individuals or the community as a whole;
  5. Informed consent. Discuss whether informed consent is required and how it will be obtained;
  6. Confidentiality. How can the anonymity of participants be protected?;
  7. Intellectual property rights. In some cases participants may not seek anonymity, but publicity, so the use of postings without attribution may not be appropriate.

BERA link not working but found it here:


Activity 6.7: Contribute to a set of research ethics case studies (2 hours)

Using the wiki on the module website, contribute a research ethics case study. This means providing a synopsis of the information that relevant ethics committees or gatekeepers might need for a project addressing the empirical research question you outlined in TMA01. Obviously a committee or gatekeeper might need full details, but for the purposes of this exercise, keep it as brief as possible while including the salient information.

Central Research Question: Do first year undergraduate Earth Science students at Keele University exhibit a discrepancy between their actual and perceived core technological literacy skills?



SQ1:   What are the students' perceptions of their levels of expertise in word processing, spreadsheets and presentation packages?

o   Likert-type survey

SQ2:    How do students perform in analysis of their skills in word processing, spreadsheets and presentation packages?

o   An assessment in the computer lab

SQ3:    Is there a discrepancy between perceived and actual core technological literacy skills?

o   Analysis by researcher

SQ4:    What are students' opinions on their use of word processing, spreadsheets and presentation packages?

o   Open-ended questions as part of the survey



First year undergraduate students in the department of Earth Sciences


Principle 1: Compliance with protocol

A protocol will be completed which specifies the procedures for recruiting the participants, gathering and managing data. It will be signed by all involved in the research.

Principle 2: Informed consent

The aims of the research and the protocol will be explained as part of the introductory lecture in fresher's week. Students will be asked if they will participate in the research and it will be explained that they will be identified by a research number that does not correlate with their student number. They will be informed that no lecturers will be involved in the research and that they will not be identified. They will also be informed that they can choose to withdraw from the study at any time and that they can choose not to answer any questions if they prefer.

No deception will be necessary

Principle 3: Openness and integrity

Students will be informed immediately in the case of any problem occurring that may be to the detriment of the student. For example, where a lecturer discovers the identity of students participating in the research.

No incentives will be offered to participants

Participants will be offered a copy of the final report.

Principle 4: Protection from harm

Participants may experience distress or discomfort if they have problems completing the assessment. The researcher will be prepared to recognise this and offer reassurance that the assessment results are for research purposes only, will not be shown to lecturers and will be anonymous. They will also remind the participant that they may withdraw from the assessment at any time.

Assessments will be held in freshers' week where it will have minimal impact on the normal workload of the participants

Principle 5: Confidentiality

It will be explained that they will be identified by a research number that does not correlate with their student number. They will be informed that no lecturers will be involved in the research and that they will not be identified.

Any disclosures concerning illegal or harmful behaviour which come to light in the course of the research will be disclosed to the relevant authorities. The participants will be informed of this disclosure before it happens if possible.

Principle 6: Professional codes of practice and ethics

Storage of personal data, in order to contact participants, will accord with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information act 2000. Participants will be informed of storage for this use.

Any students who are entitled to special circumstances in examinations and tests will be allowed to the same percentage of extra time in the assessment if required.

Screen reading software will be available for any student if required.


Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 17 Mar 2011, 10:35)
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 422478