Journal Articles

Baarts, Charlotte. 2009. Stuck in the Middle: Research Ethics Caught Between Science and PoliticsQualitative Research 9 (4): 423-439.

Abstract: The literature on research ethics tends to overlook the influence of the specific subject matter on the ethical dilemmas that emerge during the research process itself. In this article, the specific subject matter is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The article discusses the ethical dilemmas that derive from controversies about research within this highly politicized field, in which scientific knowledge is a potential object of misuse. The article shows that research ethics is no longer a matter of internalizing professional codes of conduct. Rather, it is embedded in the totality of scholarly practice. Ethically aware practice depends to a considerable extent on the qualities and skills of the researcher. The particular skills needed are discernment, imagination, partiality and personal authenticity.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Please discuss the author’s argument that research ethics is more than just internalizing professional codes of conduct, and also involve the totality of scholarly practice.
  2. Please discuss how the notion of ethics is both a conceptual and practical idea.
  3. What ethical considerations continue to factor in after a scholarly text has been published?


Flicker, Sarah, Dave Haans, and Harvey Skinner. 2004. “Ethical Dilemmas in Research on Internet Communities.” Qualitative Health Research 14(1): 124 -134.

Abstract: There has been a rapid growth in the number of articles using Internet data sources to illuminate health behavior. However, little has been written about the ethical considerations of online research, especially studies involving data from Internet discussion boards. Guidelines are needed to ensure ethical conduct. In this article, the authors examine how a youth-focused research program negotiated ethical practices in the creation of its comprehensive health site and online message board. They address three situations in which ethical predicaments arose: (a) enrolling research participants, (b) protecting participants from risk or harm, and (c) linking public and private data. Drawing on the ethical principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, justice, and beneficence, the authors present practical guidelines for resolving ethical dilemmas in research on Internet communities.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As internet technologies have opened up new avenues of research, what ethical concerns have also surfaced which must be addressed in the process?
  2. What challenges do researchers face in knowing that participants in web-based studies are actually representing themselves accurately in being who they say they are?  What are the ethical ramifications of this consideration?
  3. What are ways that researchers may minimize risk and harm to participants of web-based studies?


Gelling, Leslie, and Carol Munn-Giddings. 2011. Ethical Review of Action Research: The Challenges for Researchers and Research Ethics Committees. Research Ethics 7 (3): 100-106.

Abstract: Action research has repeatedly demonstrated how it can facilitate problem solving and change in many settings through a process of collaboration which is driven by the community at the heart of the research. The ethical review of action research can be challenging for action researchers and research ethics committees. This paper explores how seven ethical principles can be used by action researchers and research ethics committees as the basis for ethical review. This paper concludes by offering some suggestions for a way forward for both action researchers and research ethics committees.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Please discuss what challenges researchers using action research have faced relating to the ethical review process, particularly as they have sought ethical approval for their research.
  2. Please discuss several of the requirements established to evaluate the ethics of a research project.
  3. What role may action research play in future research studies?


Nind, Melanie, Rose Wiles, Andrew Bengry-Howell, Graham Crow.  2013. Methodological Innovation and Research Ethics: Forces in Tension or Forces in Harmony? Qualitative Research 13 (6): 650-667.

Abstract: This article is an exploration of the tensions inherent in the interaction between ethics and methodological innovation. The authors focus on three cases of innovation in qualitative research methods in the social sciences: netnography, child-led research and creative research methods. Using thematic analysis of data collected through semi-structured interviews with the innovators and commentators on the innovations, they discuss issues of ethical responsibility, democratisation of research, empowerment and the relationship between research and the academy. This article highlights the ways in which innovation is about reflexivity as well as new techniques. It shows how innovation may be about managing risk rather than taking risks: the innovators are cautious as much as creative, operating within a culture in which procedural ethical regulation acts to limit methodological development and in which they (and other users of their method/approach) communicate the safe qualities alongside the innovative qualities of their approach.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Please discuss how tensions may exist between integrating in ethical conduct in research versus methodological innovation.
  2. What cautions should be taken by researchers when proposing a new or innovative methodological approach?
  3. What ways may researchers use to manage risk in a proposed study?


Pech, Carol, Nichelle Cob, and John T. Cejka. 2007. Understanding Institutional Review Boards: Practical Guidance to the IRB Review Process. Nutrition in Clinical Practice 22 (6): 618-628.

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to provide practical guidance to assist investigators in the preparation of materials and obtaining approval for research projects that require oversight by an institutional review board (IRB). The central requirements for IRB approval and core considerations of IRBs are described. Specific suggestions for investigators regarding how to prepare their IRB applications to anticipate and address potential IRB concerns and questions are proposed. When researchers are familiar with these criteria and how they may be interpreted by an IRB, they can avoid deferrals or lengthy requests for protocol modifications or clarifications. General tips regarding the preparation of IRB submission materials that may allow for a smoother IRB review process are also discussed. A brief list of additional resources for investigators is appended.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Please discuss what role the IRB plays in ensuring that risks to participants of a study are minimized.
  2. Please discuss the concept of informed consent, and how IRB’s work to ensure that it is practiced and well-documented in research studies.
  3. What steps should a research take to ethically ensure the privacy and confidentiality of participants?