How could such research be carried out without violating people’s privacy or stepping outside the ethical boundaries of social science?
How social scientists conduct their research, what they do with the knowledge gained from that research, and the subject matter of the research itself, are often at the center of questions related to research ethics.
On pages 33-34 of the textbook, research by Mario Brajuha and Laud Humphreys is discussed. Read about both authors’ research.
Do you think that, in the Brajuha case, Mr. Brajuha should have been required to turn over to prosecutors the field notes he had taken? Prosecutors believed that the notes would allow them to identify the persons responsible for an arson fire. What responsibility did Mr. Brajuha have to assist the prosecutors? What responsibility did he have to the people he interviewed and to whom he had assured confidentiality?
The Humphreys research is more problematic, if for no other reason than the nature of the research itself. And while several ethical violations have been identified in Humphreys’ research, it is also widely acknowledged that the value of the findings is highly significant. The research opened a window into a subculture few were familiar with and challenged old notions of sex, sexuality, and distinctions between homosexuality, heterosexuality, and sexual identity.
Do you think that some ethical violations might at times be necessary if we are to gain a more complete understanding of human behavior? Are there some areas of human behavior that should be off-limits to social research? What limits or boundaries, if any, should be placed on such research?
I recognize that this is not the most exciting topic, and one that most of you have never really given much thought to, but these issues come up in very practical ways that directly impact us. For example, researchers might wish to learn the extent of sexual activity among adolescents, and the types of sexual activities they engage in, to help create strategies for addressing early pregnancy and/or transmission of STDs. What ethical issues or controversies might result from this type of research? How could such research be carried out without violating people’s privacy or stepping outside the ethical boundaries of social science?
Discussion Guidelines and Grading
You are required to participate at least three times throughout the week.
I will evaluate your postings on the following scale:
2 points – You posted at least three times.
4 points – You posted three times throughout the course of the week and responded to fellow classmate’s comments.
6 points – All of the above, plus your postings give evidence of thoughtful reading of the assignment.
8 points – All of the above, plus your postings directly respond to the comments of the instructor and fellow classmates. You actually engage in a discussion with the class.
10 points – All of the above, plus your postings are well-thought contributions that exhibit a true understanding of the assignment.
Tips for engaging in discussion:
Comment on the content of people’s remarks – not on the person. Use proper etiquette. I reserve the right to delete ANY inappropriate posting.
Tell us when something is added that is particularly useful to you; likewise let us know if something isn’t making sense for you – “Jim, I’m not quite sure what you meant by that comment. Tell me how you see it in relationship to ….”
Add relevant and appropriate personal stories that illustrates the concepts being discussed.
Read every post by everyone in the class, especially my posts. I might refine the topic through the week, depending on how the discussion is moving. I might add information that corrects factual errors introduced into the discussion, or that adds clarity to the discussion.
Respond to the initial discussion posting, and then check back periodically throughout the week to read your classmates’ postings. Post new questions or comments, or respond to each other’s comments. Don’t just post three times in rapid succession or wait until the last day to become involved in the discussion.