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Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (U.S.),

This is the last question out of the four questions comprehensive exam that is referred to question 4 and
its requirement illustrated as follows:

Question 4: Ethics

As you know, scientific research must be conducted in accordance with ethical principles. The ethical
principles of research are defined in:

Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct
Standard 8:
The National Academy Of Sciences, National Academy Of Engineering, and Institute Of Medicine Of The
National Academies have a more detailed and comprehensive set of ethical guidelines for scientific

Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (U.S.), National Academy of Sciences (U.S.),
National Academy of Engineering., & Institute of Medicine (U.S.). (2009) On being a scientist: A guide to
responsible conduct in research, (3rd ed.). Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Discussion 6
Plagiarism 6
Risk assessment 8
Informed consent 9
Privacy and confidentiality 10
Data handling and reporting 12
Mistakes and negligence 13
Working with a Mentor 14

Northcentral University requirements for IRB approval 14
Conclusion 15
References 16


Research Ethics

Research is an explorative activity that is undertaken for a range of reasons, though they
all stem from a need to collect evidence that either supports or rejects a supposition. For students,
research acts as an opportunity to accomplish their academic requirements, especially with
regards to the application of their theory in practice. In this respect, the decision to complete an
academic research is one that could have grave implications for a student. The research process
is cumbersome, often very expensive and time consuming (Israel & Hay, 2006. For instance, the
students would need to conduct extensive literature reviews, spend considerable sums in
collecting and analyzing primary data, and spend considerable time in presenting the final report.
Thus, if a student undertakes a mediocre research that is ultimately rejected, then they would
have wasted more than just their time and money. Besides, the student must understand that the
research process would require them to be very disciplined and patient. The research process –
beginning with developing a research question, developing an appropriate methodology,
conducting an extensive literature review, preparing a proposal, and so on – is daunting,
requiring that the student be disciplined, have integrity and care for the research (Oliver, 2014).
Therefore, researchers must ensure that they observe some ethical standards even as they
maintain the integrity and higher levels of ethics in the research process by exploring the
research core values in the real world setting.
As earlier mentioned, the research process is a formidable undertaking. Adding to its
daunting nature is the need for researchers to observe research ethics in the whole process.
Granting that the trustworthiness of a research report has usually been a subject of debate, its
value can never be overestimated (American Psychological Association, 2014). Literature on the

topic of research ethics shows that it is a normative matter whose observation is left to the
studies in the form of ethical values. Ultimately, the study is expected to respect others, be
trustworthy, open, objective, fair and honest in the course of conducting their research. It implies
that if a researcher violates any of the values then their research would be considered unethical
(Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy, National Academy of Sciences, National
Academy of Engineering, & Institute of Medicine, 2009). For instance, if the research applies
questionable research practices such as falsifying and fabricating data without informing the
audience then it can be construed as having used unethical practices. A researcher intent on
carrying out ethical research faces four key challenges. Firstly, how they would manage the
information and data collected in the study. Secondly, how the government legislation affects
their research approach. Thirdly, how the community views their research. Finally, how the
participants and subjects see the study. In the long run, participation is moderated by the
anticipated research benefits (Sales & Folkman, 2000). In this respect, research activities are
governed by a set of ethical codes that may be intangible, but are still clear in their implications.
Extensive investigation has been conducted on the subject of research ethics. Most of the
research has been with regards to ensuring that the participants’ identity is protected by a
confidentiality agreement, anonymity is maintained, privacy is observed, dignity is maintained,
the process is conducted with honesty, harm is prevented, and justice is done. Even though there
is ample literature on the subject of research ethics, particularly academic integrity with regards
to researches conducted by students, a more comprehensive, nuanced and holistic approach
remains unexplored. Thus, there is very little acquiescence by students as there are minimal
enforceable ethical standards associated with academic research (Mertens & Ginsberg, 2009).

Stark (2012) pointed out that research risked losing its value if ethical principles were not
observed, acting irresponsibly and being disrespectful. Research ethics is a multidimensional
subject that touches on dishonesty and unethical research practices. Although institutional review
boards (IRB) have become an integral part of any research, there are researchers who argue that
the boards are little more than figureheads since research ethics is a complex subject. The boards
cannot guarantee that the research has been conducted ethically, even though they try to weed
out unethical practices. In essence, the absence of a universally accepted and articulated set of
ethical principles exacerbates the problem of applying ethical standards to research activities.
Consequently, given the close association between all the research participants – such as the
researchers, participants and community – there is a need to clarify research ethics, and ensure
that researchers do not get an ambiguous understanding of the subject. According to Emanuel
(2008), the process of obtaining approval from the IRB is a frustrating exercise. It is because
knowledge of the subject and needs to be varied considerably. Regardless, ethical principles boil
down to three primary aspects. Firstly, avoiding all harm against the community. Secondly,
being open but keeping any identifying information private. Finally, ensuring that the trust level
of the community is maintained (Emanuel, 2008).
Undertaking a postgraduate degree in any subject requires some level of determination
and a will to succeed. As part of a degree, students will be needed to conduct a project that
includes primary research where they collect both primary and secondary data and subject the
data to analysis that points out data trends. It implies that the student must have the innate
strengthen and determination to pursue their degree. The students are expected to conduct
extensive data collection, analysis, and presentation. It is often a demanding task requiring
observation of stringent directions and formats that are not guaranteed to produce the desired

results. Most disturbing is the fact that some students are folding to the academic pressure and
opting to apply unethical practices in their educational activities. In fact, some of them conduct
shoddy research, citing resource and time constraints as the reason for that. Still, students must
understand that the major purpose of research is to influence policy by providing evidence to
support or discount a particular decision.


Research transgressions have the latent adversely to affect the integrity of the research
activity (Loue, 2000). The threat of plagiarism is real, and many research communities have
dedicated considerable resources to ensuring that it is not practiced. A majority of them infer
plagiarism to mean unoriginal work whose source has not been well acknowledged. Many
assumptions are ascribed to their term, thereby making it difficult for researchers to assign a
precise meaning to the term (Stewart, 2011). Using an internet search engine – such as Google,
Bing and Yahoo, and so on – reveals that plagiarism has a lot of meanings to different, though
the core of all the definitions points to the use of secondary information without appropriately
acknowledging the source of the information. All researchers – including students – are expected
to understand the meaning of plagiarism, as a research term, and ensure that they prevent it in
their research activities. Eventually, we realize that plagiarism is possibly the biggest source of
concern for research activities. It is because different meanings are attached to the term yet any
evidence of violations attracts substantial penalties that could include failing the course. Most
students who plagiarize in their reports often argue that they were either under considerable
stress or not careful enough thus ended up being careless when preparing the report. Even with

the measures in place to counter plagiarism, the problem persists and is anticipated to remain for
the foreseeable future (Loue, 2000).
The problem of plagiarism among research is a persistent problem with students often
being the main culprits, although the repercussions have often being a successful deterrent
against repeat offenses (Boomgaarden, Louhiala & Wiesing, 2003). The improvements in
communication and information technologies have exacerbated by proving new and innovative
ways for research to plagiarize without being caught or punished. The increase in publications
and materials that researchers can access have complicated the problem. Plagiarism is a solvable
academic problem; only requiring that the researchers properly format their publications and
appropriately cite the source of information. Most students attract plagiarism penalties only
because they failed to organize their compositions, mismanaged their time and did not proofread
their work, thereby resulting in them ignoring some of the most fundamental citation mistakes.
Still, there are researchers who intentionally plagiarize as a shortcut to completing their research
(Piccolo & Thomas, 2012).
Solving the plagiarism problem among researchers requires concerted input from all the
stakeholders, such as publishers, students, scholars, teachers, and schools. They must work
together to ensure that all publications are professionally conducted and presented. Learning
institutions play a role in the prevention of plagiarism by demanding that their students observe
stringent ethical research codes and that detail what plagiarism denotes and the penalties for any
violations. In addition, they would train students in the connotation of plagiarism and how it can
be avoided, including testing for their understanding of plagiarism (Remenyi, Swan & van den
Assem, 2011). Therefore, the academic community, particularly learning institutions, have the

duty of making sure that all students are aware of the nature of plagiarism and how to avoid it,
including punishment in the case of apparent violations.
If students are in doubt about the source of an idea or thought when they are conducting
their research, then it is incumbent upon them to conduct additional research and ascertain the
origin of the idea. It ensures that they avoid unintentional plagiarism. Ultimately, the choice to
avoid plagiarism is left to the researcher. Still, any student intent on conducting research should
keep abreast with any research approaches changes and ensure that they apply the latest policies
in their research activities. All publishers must also be held accountable for any of the materials
they publish and ensure that the material is not in violations of plagiarism principles (Comstock,
Risk assessment
Risk assessment denotes to the process of examining a situation and determining whether
it presents a hazard to the researcher, participants and community. Risk assessment is a pre-
requisite for any research activities that would entail evaluating happenings that are expected to
affect the research participants, researcher, and community. Self-assessment is part of the risk
assessment. It allows researchers to ascertain any hazards that are likely to impact their research
and change the outcome. Within the research design phase, the researchers are expected to
identify the risk and put measures to ensure that the risk is controlled or eliminated. In research
risk assessment, the research can pinpoint common risks that can disturb the study. Some of the
most common research risks include reputations of both the participants and researchers, legal
obligations, and financial constraints and accountability (Stewart, 2011). Mertens and Ginsberg
(2009) pointed out that results fabrication, information sources falsification, and plagiarism were
the most common risks in students’ managed researches. These risks have serious implications if

they occur, and students have tried to avoid them. The researcher must also be aware that
research risks are dynamic, having the ability to change as the research progresses. As such, risks
assessment must be conducted at regular intervals with a risk portfolio included in the research
process. Comstock (2013) noted that the risk assessment dynamics and changes entailed regular
information collection, evaluation and sharing with the research stakeholders who include
researcher, participants, peers, and mentors.
Informed consent
Informed consent implies that a participant makes a decision to either join or desist from
joining a research study based on whatever information has been availed of them. It is guided by
the need to remain truthful during the course of the research and respecting all the stakeholders.
If the research misinform the participants or omits some information, they whatever consent the
participants may have provided would be deemed as non-consensual. Ethical research points out
that a participant should only be recruited into the study after they have reviewed all the pertinent
information and make their decision voluntarily. The individuals who agree to participate in the
research must be protected from any apprehensions and retaliations. The same applies to persons
who were approached by refused to take part in the research activity. The prospective
participants must be made cognizant of the research details such as the risks and research process
since they could be a part of the study. The participants will then opt to participate or not based
on the information that they have been given. Meanwhile, the researcher must also attempt to
shield all the participants from harm that could take the form of physical or psychological harm.
In the case of minors or subjects who are legally dependent, consent for the research must be
obtained from their legal guardian before they can be allowed to participate in the study. The

informed consent should be well documented and stored in a secure location (Oliver, 2010; Sales
& Folkman, 2000; Stewart, 2011).
Privacy and confidentiality
Privacy and confidentiality are often misconstrued as the same concept. Although, the
two concepts work in concert, they are not the same. Privacy is the control over the
circumstance, place and time that an individual shares the private aspects of their life with others.
It suggests that a person has the right to without private information about their lives, only
revealing what they consider acceptable and to a select group that they have identified (Oliver,
2010; Sales & Folkman, 2000). For instance, a research participants can choose to deny a
researcher entry into their home if they feel that the information that will be collected in their
home is likely to include information that they have no desire to reveal. If to take another
example, a Christian could refuse to have their interview conducted on the premises of a
Buddhist temple citing religious belief differences.
On the other hand, confidentiality encompasses protecting an individual’s privacy. In this
case, the person who has been given the private information must observe privacy principles and
only disclose the information after receiving express permission from the information source
(Oliver, 2010; Sales & Folkman, 2000). For instance, a doctor should only disclose test results
after they have received consent from the patient. It is expected that an individual will not
disclose private information short of first getting the express permission to do so. An individual’s
right to privacy is not negotiable. In fact, it is part of the bill of rights contained in the
constitution. Information obtained from individuals must be kept confidential at all times, and
only used for the original purpose for which the information was gathered (Stewart, 2011). For
instance, if a researcher gathers information to determine how many individuals use a particular

brand of soap, then they cannot use the same information to racially profile their participants
unless they have received consent to do the same.
Within the academic community, confidentiality is applied as the participants’
reassurance that they are engaged in an ethical activity. Researchers usually avail a
confidentiality agreement as part of the informed consent with the assurance that they will
diligently observe the agreement. It helps in building a trust relationship with the participants
(Stewart, 2011). There are no professional bodies to ensure that confidentiality agreements are
observed and the participants’ privacy rights are respected, but the potential implications of trust
being lost as a result of violating the confidentiality agreement ensures that researchers observe
it. Failing to observe the confidentiality and privacy concepts have also caused researchers to
face legal difficulties as participants sue them for the same. The violating researchers end up
being financially liable, facing embarrassment, being physically and psychologically harmed,
and even losing their jobs (Comstock, 2013). There are some statutory principles that protect
participants’ confidentiality and privacy, such as Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
(FERPA). FERPA is a federal act that limits public access to the academic records of students
that are held by education institutions. These records can only be accessed after receiving written
permission from the students, their guardians or their legal representative (Howard, McLaughlin
& Knight, 2012). Another statutory principle is the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA is a federal act that protects patients’ information from
unauthorized access, mentioning the instances when third parties can access the information
(Howard, McLaughlin & Knight, 2012).
It is incumbent upon the researcher and convenient that they observe all privacy and
confidentially agreements as stated in the informed consent form. Although errors and lack of

judgments could be occasionally expected, the researcher must exert considerable effort to
guarantee that all data is protected and applied as stated in the confidentiality agreement. They
must observe all the established principles regarding research practices and activities. It will limit
and prevent any accidental abuse of the participants’ confidentiality and privacy (Comstock,
Data handling and reporting
The research process entails collection, reporting and handling of data. If it is undertaken
correctly, then the research process can be guaranteed to be legitimate. Research involving
human participants (subjects) will require approval from the IRB before the research can
proceed. Every institution that is engaged in conducting human study is necessary to have an
IRB that is mandated by the federal government to guide the research process and ensure that no
human violations occur. It also applies to research on human behavioral patterns. Researchers are
expected to ensure that even as they carry out the research activities, they remain sensitive to the
well-being of the human participants. Data handling must follow all the IRB stipulations since
mishandling could have an adverse impact on the research outcome (Emanuel, 2008). Every
education institutions have a set of principles that students must observe when handling research
data. Data validity or invalidity is not only a reflection of the researcher’s inability to conduct the
research, but also the institutions inability to track research they are supposed to be regulating
(Stark, 2012).
Primary data collection can take either of four forms. Firstly, the data can be collected
using structured questionnaires that ask questions with a list of optional answers included.
Secondly, the research subjects can be observed in their natural setting and their behavior noted.
Thirdly, the participants can be asked to take personal notes that are then evaluated to determine

trends. Finally, the participants can be subjected to an interview that is then recorded using a tape
recorder. The most significant feature of data collection is that the researcher must be consistent
in their choice of methods. The same method must be used for all participants to ensure that the
data is consistent and comparable. Ultimately, an independent individual should be able to
replicate the same results (Emanuel, 2008; Stark, 2012).
Once collected, the data should be securely and responsibly stored, with unauthorized
access prevented. It will allow for easy retrieval and referencing in the future. In addition, secure
storage allows for pertinent and valid questions about the data to be asked in future research.
Even as the data is stored securely, the researcher must have a contingency plans that allows
them to recover the data in case of a loss in the primary data storage unit (Emanuel, 2008; Stark,
Mistakes and negligence
Research is not immune to mistakes and negligence. The whole process requires human
input thereby introducing the possibility of errors being made. In fact, even the process of
writing a research report challenges and creates some complexities for the researcher as some
researchers have little to no experience with writing comprehensive research reports. Educational
institutions have taken measures to reduce the errors by training students on how to conduct
research and report their results (Stewart, 2011). Regardless, mistakes and negligence has not
been entirely eliminated from the research process.
Research must eliminate errors from mistakes and negligence whether the research is
conducted by a novice or an expert at research. Each researcher must ensure that their conduct is
above reproach. Additionally, the panel that reviews the research process as it is carried and
report before publication must ensure that the research meets the highest levels of standards and

expectation. Even before publication, the report should be proofread and checked for common
mistakes and negligence (Loue, 2000). Researchers who are found to have made mistakes and
have been negligent should be punished for the same since it is incumbent upon them to ensure
that the research has followed a rigorous process.
Working with a Mentor
Mentors are guides who review the research process and point out mistakes or make
commendations. They facilitate the research process by ensuring that the research meets all the
necessary requirements and guidelines (Comstock, 2013). Most educational institutions have a
mentoring program that assigns prominent researchers to students who are carrying out the
research. The mentor guides the student through the research, placing particular emphasis in
ensuring that the research meets the institutional expectations.
There is no argument that a mentor is necessary for encouragement, expertise, and
support. A student who has a diligent mentor should expect to complete successfully and defend
their research before a panel of scholars. Additionally, it allows the student to gain the
experience and knowledge that will permit them to be successful independent researchers. From
as early as the research idea conceptualization to the final publication, a mentor guides the
student at every step. Offering feedback and reprimands where necessary (Comstock, 2013).
Northcentral University requirements for IRB approval
The Northcentral University is an education institution. The federal government expects
that an institution have an IRB since that is a federal requirement for any institutions that
conducts research with human subjects. The institution has an IRB board that oversees all
research activities in the institution by establishing research guidelines and ensuring that they are
diligently observed. Essentially, the board conducts five primary activities. Firstly, it protects the

privacy of the research subjects. Secondly, it guarantees the safety of the subjects and their data.
Thirdly, it ensures that the subjects have signed an informed consent and were aware of what the
research entails. Fourthly, it ensures that the subjects are selected randomly using a fair process.
Finally, it provides that the subjects are not subjected to risks, with any risks minimized. In
addition, the IRB ensures that the research is in compliance with all the relevant federal
legislation concerning handling of human subjects and living matter. Before the research can be
undertaken, the IRB must first approve the research proposal (Emanuel, 2008; Stark, 2012).


One must accept that research is a complex process, especially if it involves human
subjects. If not diligently evaluated, the research can offer an opportunity for the students to be
dishonest. The researcher must ensure that they diligently observe the ethical codes governing
their research practice, including the principles set by their particular institution. Their failure to
observe the ethical principles should attract stringent reprimands that deter such behavior in the
future. Part of the principles should address plagiarism among researchers, assessment of the
risks inherent in the research, informed consent, privacy and confidentiality, and data handling
and reporting. Including a mentor in the research process will ensure that the researcher does not
make any mistakes in the research process. The IRB provides additional reviews the context of
ensuring that the research meets federal standards. Therefore, researchers must ensure that they
observe some ethical standards even as they maintain the integrity and higher levels of ethics in
the research process by exploring the research core values in the real world setting.


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