In doing research, there are five main ethical
pillars that must be followed by researcher. First, minimize the risk of harm
to participants. This principle stress on how a research should not harm
participants by considering all aspects that could bring harm such as physical
harm, psychological distress and discomfort, social disadvantage, financial
status or an invasion of participant’s privacy and anonymity. Non-maleficence
requires a high level of sensitivity from the researcher about what constitutes
“harm” (Ford L., 2009). Discomfort and harm can be physiological,
emotional, social and economic in nature (Burns N., 2005). By acknowledging
these risk aspects, interventions to avoid or minimizing the risk of harm could
be taken by researcher.
Second, attain informed consent from participants. The
idea of informed consent is one of the foundations of research. Informed
consent means the knowing consent of a person without undue inducement or any
element of force, extortion, duress or any other form of constraint or
coercion. It is the researcher’s responsibility to provide sufficient
information in comprehensible and simple language on the benefits and possible
risks ahead of the participant’s involvement in the research, so that participant
can make a well-informed judgement about participation. Informed consent is not
just a form, but a process, when it was done appropriately, the process assures
that participants are willingly participating in the research with full
knowledge and information of relevant risks and benefits. In some cases, that
involve people with low autonomy such as young children, very ill people or
mentally disables, they could only be included in research under specific
circumstances, as they not able to make fully informed decisions on their own.
They should always be protected.
The third component of research ethics is by
ensuring the anonymity and individuality of research participants. Protecting
anonymity of information from participants means that either the researcher
does not collect personal information of participants such as name, address,
email, job, year of services or the researcher does not link individual
responses with participants’ identities. Unless it is necessarily essential to
the aimed protocol, participant’s personal details should be keep ‘anonymous’
to protect the participant confidentiality. Nonetheless, permission should be
obtained before any confidential information is used.
Forth principle of research ethics is to reject any
kinds of deceptive practices. Deceptive may not be seen as an issue if an
informed consent has been performed, however the question is, how can the
participants know what the research requires of them if they are being
deceived? this question makes the use of deceptive practices in doubt.
Therefore, dissertation research should avert any types of deceptive practices.
However, deception is sometimes being allowed in covert research where the
identity of the observer and the purpose of the research is not known to
participants. This is most likely to be the case where a research needs an
observation rather than through direct contact with participants, for example;
observing what type of customers who like giving tips in the tip jar.
Lastly, allowing the participants to withdraw is one
of the principles of research ethics that should be followed by researcher. Participants
should have the right to withdraw from the research process at any stage and
when the decision to withdraw was made, the participant should not be pressured
or coerced in any way in order to stop them from withdrawing. According to Good
Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines, an individual can withdraw from research at
any time without revealing the reason of discontinuation.
These basic principles of research ethics should be
taken into account when performing a research as it can help to ensure that
researchers can be held accountable to the public, in terms of human right,
social responsibility and public health and safety. Researchers should be
reminded that any ethical lapses in research can significantly harm the
subjects and result to a low-quality research study.