The term “Research” in its broad sense, refers to the practice of exploring into concerned areas of interest and studying the materials and relevant sources regarding the concerned area in order to find out new facts and to establish new assertions and conclusions. Research is a crucial part of any genre of education, especially higher education and over the years, both of these have undergone significant dynamics and have become more integrated and complementary to one another (Gay & Mills, 2015).
Research is one of the primary components in any stream of exploration, particularly in social sciences. The main purpose of this domain of research is to explore and investigate different aspects of the human behavior. Social science being mainly the study of behavioral aspects of individuals, the research framework in this genre of behavioral science is mainly used to study the behaviors and actions taken by concerned individuals on the topics or phenomena of concern. Thus, research in educational and social science aspects is highly linked directly to the individual’s perception and actions, thereby keeping high scopes and avenues of direct interactions with the subjects for the researchers in this domain (Neuman, 2013).
In conducting any kind of research, one of the primary categories, which have to be satisfied by the researchers, especially in the contemporary period, is the ethical considerations in conducting the concerned research. The term “ethics” in the aspect of social research, refers to a structure of regulations and guidelines, which exists to make the research efficient and productive, keeping the integrity of the research, the researcher as well as the other direct and indirect participants maintained. This is especially mandatory for those researchers who directly depend on interactions with live subjects (mostly humans), in order to ensure that to fulfill the management of the research, the researcher does not compromise the welfare and dignity of his or her subjects (Resnik, 2015). Keeping this need for ethics in social science and educational research in concern, the paper tries to study the different ethical aspects present in social science research framework, how they are followed and the limitations of the same, taking reference to an article. The article, which has been considered for the purpose of analyzing the ethical considerations in the educational and social science research, is a peer reviewed article on the impact of bullying in the childhood on the health, wealth and crime in the adult age and the social outcome of the same.
The article, named “Impact of Bullying in Childhood on Adult Health, Wealth, Crime and Social Outcomes”, had been published in the Psychological Science Journal of the National Institute of health. The main objective of the article can be seen to be of exploring the implications of one of the social problems of bullying. The term “bullying” in its broad sense means exerting force or superiority for the purpose of intimidating the people who are weak or are at a comparatively disadvantageous position. This highly unfair practice is found to be highly present, in all strata of the society, especially among children and adolescent population (Wolke et al., 2013).
Keeping the problem into consideration, the authors try to assess the short term as well as the long-term implications of bullying. It also tries to analyze whether the problem of bullying only leaves short-term impacts on the victim who lasts for some days or whether it has long term implications and leaves a lasting impression on the victim in his or her adulthood also. The basic findings of the article points out towards the fact that though bullying often leaves long term and evidently negative implications on the adulthood of the victims, the same is not true in the case of those who bullies. Little evidences were found regarding the long-term impacts of bullying on the adulthood of the bullies (Anderson et al., 2012). The article, thus does a crucial work in asserting the implications of one of the most common social evils, faced by a major share of the children of any society and also asserts that most of the times bullying leaves long lasting negative impacts on those who are being bullied. It also points out that intervention of the parents and relevant caregivers, as well prompt medical attention to the victims of bullying in the childhood only most likely reduces the long term implications which are left by the bullies on the children who are bullied (Battiste, 2016).
The article, in order to study the impacts of bullying on the childhood as well as the adulthood of both the bullies and their victims, takes a primarily quantitative approach in doing the same. The authors have mainly taken the quantitative because the study has been a population-based study and the same includes a considerably high number of participants from different age groups and geographical locations (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2013). The total sample who agreed to participate (80% of the total recruitment) amounts to 1420 individuals, divided into three age groups at the intake. The ages being 9, 11 and 13 years, which indicates that the sample size of the study, at the intake, has been only children. Of the 1420 children who had been interviewed in their childhood, 89.7% (1273 individuals) were followed up when they reached their young adulthood. This had been mainly done to cater to the objective of the article to observe the implications of childhood bullying on the adulthood of the victims and the bullies as well.
The primary feature of the article is that it deals with a very sensitive and personal, yet widespread societal problem of bullying. Another important feature of the same article is the nature of the sample size, which has been taken by the authors, especially at the beginning of the study. Children of ages 9, 11 and 13 years have been taken as sample in the article. This makes considering the ethical aspects regarding conduction of the research procedures, especially direct interactions extremely crucial for the researchers concerned.
The first ethical requirement, which has been claimed to be met efficiently in the article, is the requirement for consent of the participants. The participants, only after singing the consent forms, which have been viewed and approved by the Review Board of the Duke University Medical Center, have been approached by the authors for interview. Another ethical aspect that has been considered by the article is the fact that the main participants belonged to the minor age group. Considering this, the authors have allowed the parents to participate in the interviews along with the children also (Hartas, 2015).
Ethical Gaps in the concerned article
The methods of research incorporated in the concerned article, includes the conduction of extensive interviews with the sample selected , who have been children aged not more than 13 years during the first phase of the interviews. The article states that the parents or the primary care givers had also participated in the interviews along with the children and their opinions have also been taken into account.
However, the article is not seen to highlight the precautions and additional cares which had been taken during the periods of interviews of the children. Children, falling under the most vulnerable class for the purpose of direct human interaction and interviews, taking extra care about the implications of the interviews on their mental and physical conditions needs to be taken by the researchers as improper questions or throw of questions can trigger negative emotional distress or extreme fear and intimidation among them.
The topic of concern being bullying, it had to be account by the researchers that their actions and questions could have left impressions on the brain and mind of the children interviewed. For combating the same, it was necessary to keep proper arrangements, which could have soothed the child after interview. On the other hand, though the consent forms had been used, however, it had been mostly the parents who decided about the consent of the child. The consent of the child interviewed and whether he actually perceived the intentions and questions of the researchers correctly is not clear from the assertions of the authors.
Ethical Issues presented in the article
As is evident from the above discussion, the article which has been taken into consideration by the concerned research deals with the implications of bullying on both the short term as well as the long-term mental and physical healthcare of the bullied as well as the bullies. The issue of bullying is an extremely sensitive and personal issue for those who remain at the receiving side as well as those who create the problem (Miller et al., 2012). The victims of bullying feel vulnerable and embarrassed to depict the incidents which happened to them to any person, especially to strangers. On the other hand those who are involved in bullying others also remain secretive in opening up and accepting their faults, mostly due to the fear of negative repercussions and judgments on part of the listeners.
Dealing with such a sensitive issue becomes even more complicated if the sample size chosen is underage. This makes the incorporation and proper addressing of the ethical issues which can arise during the research process an absolute necessity. The primary issues which had been most likely to have cropped up in the ethical aspect of the concerned research, includes the issue of integrity and dignity of the respondents, the effects on their mental and physical health, personal biases in the perception of rights and wrongs and the long term implications of the interview procedure on the respondents (Hoe & Hoare, 2012). Another crucial ethical consideration, which is especially true for this particular research, is that the questions for the children could have distorted their mental stability to a considerable extent, which in turn had the chance to make the research ethically unacceptable.
Implications of the issues as ethical challenges
The issues put forward by the personnel interviewed in the concerned article, which has been taken into reference by the project, are of considerable importance and can be treated as the common ethical challenges in the contemporary research framework. The issues, which are highlighted, can be linked with the existing theoretical and conceptual framework existing in the ethical aspects of research, especially with the most popular framework already existing in this respect, the Belmont Principles on ethical obligations in any kind of research (Department of Health, 2014).
Ethical Challenges: Belmont Report
As per the Belmont report, there are three ethical principles, which need to be abided by all the researchers to make their research wholesome, unbiased and socially and ethically acceptable. These are as follows:
Respecting persons- According to this principle, the researcher needs to ensure that the research techniques and interaction methods, which he or she is applying, respect the autonomy of the people who are participating in the research. For this, the participants need to be provided with relevant and adequate information regarding the concerned research (Miracle, 2016). The decisions of the participants regarding participation in the research and sharing their opinions should also be completely respected and accepted by the researcher and there should not be any forced or influenced views taken in the research. Moreover, special protections are required to be taken if vulnerable people and children are also involved in the research. The anonymity and confidentiality of the participants also needs to be maintained (Bromley et al., 2015).
Beneficence- Another crucial aspect which has to be incorporated in the ethical framework, is that there remains no or minimum risks for the participants and the research actually benefits them. This indicates towards the fact that often the research processes leave negative implications on the participants, physical as well as mental, which reduces the integrity and acceptability of the concerned research considerably. This needs to be minimized as per the ethical requirements of researches (Brakewood & Poldrack, 2013).
Justice- This highlights the need for equal implications and considerations of all the parties involved in the concerned research, such that the burdens as well as the benefits of the researches are accrued to all the participants and are not accumulated to any one particular section of the participants. All the sections of the population should be included and given same opportunity, as per the ethical requirements of the researches (Dresser, 2012).
All the three principles point towards the challenges which exists in the ethical framework of research in the contemporary world, which are highly in relevance to the concerned article as they have similarity with the issues highlighted in the article. These have to be taken into account by the researchers in the educational and social science domains as for any research to be qualitatively superior, unbiased and acceptable, it is of crucial importance that the same is done keeping the ethical issues in mind. The research are done mainly to find out facts and solutions which cater to the increase in the overall welfare of the society as a whole (Fujii, 2012).
As discussed above, ethics has been increasingly becoming one of the primary components in every arena of human life, which also includes research and academic practices. In this context, studying the concerned article and the assertions put forward by the participants whose views has been quantitatively incorporated in the article, gave me useful insights regarding the implications and significance of ethical considerations in the contemporary periods.
The primary thing, which I understood by reviewing the concerned article, is that of the many roles of the academic and especially social science researchers, one of the primary ones is to conduct the research in an ethical framework (Marshall & Rossman, 2014). This is primarily because if while carrying out the research the integrity and dignity of the participants are compromised or if any biased or forced views are incorporated by the researchers, then the research findings are bound to be compromised in terms of quality and can face non-acceptance in the ethical grounds (Bryman, 2015). This becomes even more crucial if the sample set considered includes vulnerable age groups or those with other vulnerabilities (Lange, Rogers & Dodds, 2013). Researches being mainly done with the objective of increasing the overall societal welfare, I also understood the challenges of trade-offs between long-term welfare of the society and integrity and welfare of the participants, which the researchers need to face. This in turn made me more intrigued to study the theoretical frameworks present in these aspects and to search for the effective ethical frameworks to combat these challenges. The importance of the ethical committees also became more prominent to me.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that ethics is one of the primary components, which have to be taken into consideration by the researchers across the world. With the approaches becoming more humane and the assessment of the procedures becoming more stringent and vigilant, the challenges of the researchers have also been increasing and often they are subjected to face tradeoffs between their own convenience and the welfare of the participants. This also makes the coordination and cooperation of the researchers with the ethical committees necessary to improve the quality of research works. There still exits gaps in the aspect of efficient ethical frameworks for research, which with proper addressing can help the researchers in reducing the hurdles in these aspects.
Anderson, E. E., Solomon, S., Heitman, E., DuBois, J. M., Fisher, C. B., Kost, R. G., … & Ross, L. F. (2012). Research ethics education for community-engaged research: A review and research agenda. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 7(2), 3-19.
Battiste, M. (2016). Research Ethics for Chapter Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage. Ethical futures in qualitative research: Decolonizing the politics of knowledge, 111.
Brakewood, B., & Poldrack, R. A. (2013). The ethics of secondary data analysis: Considering management application of Belmont principles to the sharing of neuroimaging data. Neuroimage, 82, 671-676.
Bromley, E., Mikesell, L., Jones, F., & Khodyakov, D. (2015). From subject to participant: Ethics and the evolving role of community in health research. American journal of public health, 105(5), 900-908.
Bryman, A. (2015). Social research methods. Oxford university press.
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2013). Research methods in education. Routledge.
Department of Health, E. (2014). The Belmont Report. Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research. The Journal of the American College of Dentists, 81(3), 4.
Dresser, R. (2012). Aligning regulations and ethics in human research. Science, 337(6094), 527-528.
Fujii, L. A. (2012). Research ethics 101: Dilemmas and responsibilities. PS: Political Science & Politics, 45(4), 717-723.
Gay, L. R., & Mills, G. E. (2015). Educational Research: Competencies for Analysis and Applications, Global Edition: Edition 11. Pearson Education Limited.
Hartas, D. (Ed.). (2015). Educational research and inquiry: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Bloomsbury Publishing.
Hoe, J., & Hoare, Z. (2012). Understanding quantitative research: Part 1. Nursing Standard (through 2013), 27(15-17), 52.
Lange, M. M., Rogers, W., & Dodds, S. (2013). Vulnerability in research ethics: a way forward. Bioethics, 27(6), 333-340.
Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (2014). Designing qualitative research. Sage publications.
Miller, T., Birch, M., Mauthner, M., & Jessop, J. (Eds.). (2012). Ethics in qualitative research. Sage.
Miracle, V. A. (2016). The Belmont Report: the triple crown of research ethics. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 35(4), 223-228.
Neuman, W. L. (2013). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Pearson education.
Neuman, W. L., & Robson, K. (2014). Basics of social research. Pearson Canada.
Resnik, D. B. (2015, December). What is ethics in research & why is it important. In ideas.
Wolke, D., Copeland, W. E., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2013). Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychological science, 24(10), 1958-1970.