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Research Ethics

As you think about your study design, remember the following core ethical principles of research: respect for persons, concern for welfare, and justice.

The following are the basic principles that must be respected when conducting research.

  1. Respect for Persons: You must respect participants’ autonomy. A key component of that respect is the requirement to seek their free, informed and ongoing consent. Depending on who your intended participants are, you may need third party authorization (e.g., permission from parents if your participants are children). The format and language of consent forms should also be tailored to your participants’ needs.
  2. Concern for Welfare: Researchers should aim to protect the welfare of participants in view of any foreseeable risks associated with the research. This includes risk of physical, psychological, and reputational harm (e.g., from sensitive questions, potentially upsetting activities, or physically demanding tasks). It also means ensuring that their personal information remains confidential.
  3. Justice: You must treat people fairly and equitably. Participation in your study should be based on inclusion criteria that are justified by the research question, so that no segment of the population is unduly burdened by the harms of research or denied the benefits of the knowledge generated from it.

Keep in mind that balancing research ethics with inclusivity can be difficult when collecting demographic data. While we want to make sure that we capture identities as specifically as possible, we also must be careful to not collect information that is too personal and identifying. For more information on the types of demographics questions you can ask, check out the Measuring Demographics section of our Questions to Use in Survey Research and Experiments page.

Additional Resources

We strongly recommend that anyone who intends to conduct research take the Tri-Council Course on Research Ethics, which is available online for free.

You can also consult Faunalytics’ Research Ethics and Data Handling Policy for an example of how these principles may be applied to research.

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