6 Aug 2022


Research Ethics: Everything You Need to Know

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Academic level: Ph.D.

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Research ethics are essential components for conducting a study. Usually, researchers are required to follow an outlined set of principles that ensures that they do not go against the human right. Typically, research ethics are included in research to ensure respondents' protection and with that of their personal information shared during a study. For that reason, the researcher must formulate appropriate ways to assure the participant's protection by addressing issues of confidentiality, anonymity, as well as bias. These provisions are used against the researcher when they go against their rights as research respondents. 

Risk and Counter Measures 

Some researches involve higher risks than others. Therefore, they might risk the lives of the participants. In this case, researchers are required to provide high protection to keep their respondents away from harm. High research risks tend to interfere with the willingness of people to engage in the study. Therefore, it will ensure that the respondents are well-informed of the risks involved with participating in the study. To ensure that all respondents participate willingly, we will provide them with the consent document to sign their acceptance (Vanclay et al., 2013). Additionally, we will offer them the freedom to pull out of the study whenever they feel threatened and cannot continue participating in the study. 

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Confidentiality and Anonymity 

A significant principle in research deals with privacy and anonymity in which the identities of the participants should be protected and not revealed without their authorization. According to Turcotte-Tremblay et al. (2018), the principle of confidentiality intends to counter any harm that may arise as a result of participating in the study. The research will use various methodologies to ensure the identity of their subjects is kept confidential. First, their information will be secured with passwords to ensure that external personnel cannot have access to the information. Data encryption will also ensure data is securely conveyed through the internet (Lancaster, 2017). Respondents will not be identified by their names but through set identifiers. This will minimize the chances of other people knowing that the participant took part in the study. 

To enhance anonymity, subjects and researchers will sign documentation of consent. The researcher will not force respondents to participate in the research. Also, it is imperative to avoid causing any kind of harm to subjects, whether physical or emotional. The researcher will also extend anonymity and confidentiality to vulnerable groups and respect the autonomy of the respondents. After data has been collected, access will be restricted to authorized persons. Records will be physically secured, and secure disposal will also be done when the researcher achieves the intended purpose (Ethicist, 2015). Therefore, researchers will ensure that they do not use the collected data for purposes other than the intended one. In case of any information sharing, respondents’ permission will be obtained. Furthermore, devices used in data collection will be formatted before disposal to ensure that no confidential information is leaked to the outside. 

Data Security 

After researchers collect the required data, it is imperative to store it for confidentiality purposes securely. According to data security policies, confirming personal data is protected with suitable levels of privacy, anonymity, or de-identification is an essential aspect of ensuring a minimal risk threshold of the researchers, participants, and the institutions (Roberts, 2015). IRB guidelines require researchers to follow established core data security controls that need data collection and storage devices to have password protections. The controls also require sensitive information on portable devices such as USBs to be encrypted and access to identifiable information limited to authorized members only (Surmiak, 2018). Usually, patient information is sensitive data and, therefore, should be erased after being transferred to secure systems. Signing confidentiality agreements is consequently required for anyone accessing such information. Calendar services and U-M + Google email must not be used in collecting, storing, or transmitting protected health information or sensitive human subjects. 

Research Bias 

Research bias occurs when principal investigators introduce systematic errors in sampling and testing by selecting some research answers over others. Bias arises from experimental error and the failure of the researcher to consider all potential variables. Mostly, bias occurs during the data collection stage when the researchers select subjects that will generate the desired outcomes. Respondent bias can also arise from social desirability, habituation, and acquiescence bias. Researchers will avoid these biases by having the research participants review the results. They can also verify their data through triangulation, which entails reviewing other sources of data (Roberts, 2015). The principal investigator should conduct peer review of their conclusions to identify things and gaps which they could have possibly misses. Moreover, using data enhancement methods can eliminate bias in sample selection. Generally, researchers must report the data is free of bias, and they have the responsibility of avoiding prejudice throughout the study. 


Research ethics are essential, especially when involving humans as respondents. Ethical principles have been put in place to ensure that researchers respect their respondents and ensure their protection. Ensuring anonymity, confidentiality, and reducing errors do not only enhance the accuracy of the study but also protect participants from any harm that may arise as a result of participating in the study. 


Ethicist, P. (2015). Simplifying the complexity of confidentiality in research.  Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 10 (1), 100-102. 

Lancaster, K. (2017). Confidentiality, anonymity, and power relations in elite interviewing: conducting qualitative policy research in a politicized domain. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 20 (1), 93-103. 

Roberts, L. D. (2015). Ethical issues in conducting qualitative research in online communities.  Qualitative Research in Psychology 12 (3), 314-325. 

Surmiak, A. D. (2018, September). Confidentiality in qualitative research involving vulnerable participants: Researchers' perspectives. In  Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research  (Vol. 19, No. 3). 

Turcotte-Tremblay, A. M., & Mc Sween-Cadieux, E. (2018). A reflection on the challenge of protecting the confidentiality of participants while disseminating research results locally. BMC medical ethics 19 (1), 45. 

Vanclay, F., Baines, J. T., & Taylor, C. N. (2013). Principles for ethical research involving humans: ethical professional practice in impact assessment Part I.  Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 31 (4), 243-253. 

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