Ethics, Confidentiality, and Informed Consent

Subject: Education
Pages: 14
Words: 3870
Reading time:
15 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

Osei (2013) argues that pursuing a doctoral degree is a fundamental aspect in individuals’ efforts to improve their career. However, one must meet certain requirements in order to obtain a doctoral degree. One of the requirements entails completing assignments and dissertations. Writing dissertations is a complex process, which covers diverse aspects such as problem identification, literature review, and dissemination of findings. Subsequently, writing dissertations takes a substantial amount of time. Osei (2013) asserts that doctoral research “involves diverse human subjects, which present researchers with potential ethical dilemmas” (p.1). This aspect mainly occurs if the researcher attaches more value to the research findings as compared to protecting the different research participants. The research problem under investigation should be beneficial to the target audience rather than concentrate on satisfying a particular personal agenda. Moreover, the purpose of the study should be outlined clearly to the research participants and it should not contain any element of deception. The intention of the research study should be explicit in order to provide the research participants an opportunity to make informed decisions on the risks and benefits associated with participating in the research study.

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Singh and Bennington (2012) argue that ethical considerations are a key consideration in the entire research process. Subsequently, its significance in improving the credibility of a particular research study cannot be underestimated. This paper discusses how care and integrity will be incorporated in the process of undertaking the various aspects of doctoral research from the literature review, conducting the research, and writing the dissertation manuscript. The objective is to improve the integrity and credibility of the study by adhering to ethical standards.

Analysis

Ethical considerations

Calabrese (2009) asserts that diverse ethical considerations are involved in the process of writing a research study. The ethical considerations aim at protecting the rights of the diverse research participants. A researcher must acknowledge diverse ethical considerations for they affect the integrity of the study. Comas-Forgas and Sureda-Negre (2010) argue that integrity is the foundation of scientific research. Failure to ensure a high level of integrity in a particular research study diminishes the trustworthiness of a study. In the process of writing a dissertation, a number of ethical issues should be considered. Some of the issues relate to plagiarism, risk assessment, informed consent, working with a mentor, mistakes and negligence, privacy and confidentiality, and data handling and reporting (DeRenzo & Moss, 2006).

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is one of the most common ethical issues encountered in the process of writing dissertations. Barrett and Malcom (2006) define plagiarism as “the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit including those obtained through confidential review of others’ research proposals and manuscripts” (p. 112 ). Plagiarism hinders the credibility of a research study, as the findings of a plagiarized study do not add to the already existing body of knowledge. Plagiarism can occur at different levels of study such as amongst students and by established researchers. According to Davis (2011), the problem of plagiarism has emanated from the increment in the number of research publications. The problem has further been aggravated by the rate of the Internet penetration. Currently, students can easily access different published materials from the Internet.

A researcher can plagiarize deliberately or inadvertently. Deliberate plagiarism occurs if a writer copies the findings of a particular study from different sources such as the Internet and passes them as his or her own without recognizing the original author (Barrett & Malcom, 2006). On the other hand, inadvertent plagiarism occurs if a writer unintentionally repeats research findings of a particular research study without knowing. Barrett and Malcom (2006) argue that plagiarism amongst students and established writers occurs due to lack of adequate training on how to avoid it during their undergraduate or post-graduate levels of study.

A high level of integrity in order to avoid plagiarism will be observed in the process of conducting my doctoral research. This goal will be attained by taking into account a number of issues. First, I will recognize the contributions of other authors’ ideas. For example, when using other authors word-for-word ideas or verbatim, I will ensure that I cite their ideas and opinions are appropriately acknowledged using quotation marks. Furthermore, the specific source of the idea will be indicated. The in-text citation will be accompanied by a corresponding title of the source in the reference list.

Moreover, I will ensure that plagiarism of text through various practices such as para-plagiarism and patch writing are avoided. This goal will be achieved by ensuring that the changes made on another authors’ ideas are effectively acknowledged (Gibson & Chester-Fangman, 2011). For example, practices such as intertwining my own ideas with those of the author without paraphrasing will be avoided by ensuring appropriate paraphrasing and summarizing the ideas of other scholars. In the process of writing a literature review, I will use diversified materials and make the proper referencing where needed. Moreover, I will ensure that I use my own words in the process of paraphrasing. However, I will ensure that I retain the original meaning of the author. This move will aid in avoiding near plagiarism, hence improving the credibility of my study.

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Informed consent

Fouka and Mantzorou (2011) argue that informed consent is one of the main ethical issues encountered in conducting a particular research study. Fouka and Mantzorou (2011) assert that informed consent “means that a person knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently and in a clear and manifest way gives his consent” (p.4). In the process of conducting my doctoral research study, I will secure informed consent from the research participants. Securing informed consent will ensure that the research participants have the autonomy to decide on whether to participate in the study or not. This end will be achieved by ensuring that the participants understand their rights. Subsequently, the participants’ autonomy and liberty will be protected adequately.

In the process of seeking informed consent, I will ensure that the research participants understand the risks and benefits associated with the study. This goal will be achieved by providing the participants with a comprehensive explanation of the purpose of the study and the procedures that will be incorporated in order to achieve the desired outcome. Explaining the purposes of the study will enable the research participants to establish a link with the study, and thus increase their contribution. I will ensure that the research participants appreciate the additional knowledge that they will gain by participating in the research. Furthermore, I will ensure that the research participants understand the personal benefits that will be accrued by participating in the study. Appelbaum, Lidz, and Klitzman (2009) assert that researchers cannot rule out the possibility of harm in the process of conducting a particular the research study. Subsequently, I will describe the possible sources of discomfort, harm, or infringement of an individual’s privacy and how the research participants will be compensated.

In addition to the above, informed consent will be sought by explaining to the research participants the methodology of conducting the study. For example, I will explain the method of data collection and analysis. Furthermore, I will ensure that the research participants understand how the data collected will be used. Some of the uses that I will incorporate include professional and academic use. This aspect will aid in ensuring that the selected research participants are comfortable to participate in the study. Moreover, informed consent will be obtained by ensuring that the participants understand who else will be involved in the study and the reason for their selection.

Pitcher (2011) argues that conducting research consumes a substantial amount of time. The researcher must outline the expected timeframe within which the research must be completed. When seeking informed consent, I will ensure that the participants understand the amount of time required to complete the study successfully. This aspect will enable the respondents to assess whether participating in the study will adversely affect their time.

Both written and oral statements will be used in seeking informed consent. The informed consent statement will aid in improving the degree of the selected respondents participating in the study. Subsequently, the likelihood of gathering sufficient data from the selected research participants will be improved.

Privacy and confidentiality

Giordano and Taylor (2007) define privacy as “the control over the extent, timing and circumstances of sharing oneself either intellectually, behaviorally or physically with others” (p. 264). The extent to which researchers integrate the concept of privacy determines the likelihood of the selected respondents participating in the study. On the other hand, confidentiality entails ensuring that the data collected is not divulged to other parties without the permission of the respondent. In the process of collecting data from the target audience, I will explain to the respondents how confidentiality and privacy of the data provided will be ensured. For example, during the data collection process, privacy will be ensured by using code names and changing the ethnic background of the respondents and their occupation (Lowrance, 2012). This move will improve the effectiveness with which the researcher creates a clean data, hence improving the process of concealing the respondents’ identities. Omitting certain personal aspects of the respondents will aid in preventing internal confidentiality or deductive disclosure. Moreover, data cleaning will be achieved by avoiding the use of nicknames, and family names (Glasper & Rees, 2013).

Kaiser (2010) contends that a deductive disclosure “occurs when the trait of individuals or groups make them identifiable in research reports” (p.1632). In the process of conducting my doctoral research, I will integrate qualitative design as one of the research techniques. Subsequently, the risk of disclosing the respondents’ identity through deductive disclosure is relatively high. Using code names and concealing the respondents’ confidential information will aid in protecting the participants’ identity. Moreover, research participants will be presented with confidentiality agreements during the process of securing informed consent from the participants. It is expected that nurturing informed consent will aid in building trust with the respondents.

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In addition to the above, I will also integrate the dominant approach in the research process by ensuring complete anonymity of the respondents during the data collection process, analysis and reporting. The dominant approach will be integrated during the process of planning the research. However, it will be ensured that the process of modifying the respondents’ confidential information does not change the meaning of the data collected. Moreover, I will ensure that some of the data collected from the respondents is not published.

Confidentiality and privacy will also be achieved by adopting an alternative approach, which entails explaining to the research participants who the target audience is (Glatthorn & Randy, 2005). This aspect will aid in minimizing uncertainty, which might arise from lack of knowledge on how the data will be utilized.

Working with a mentor

Currently, the research industry is characterized by a high degree of competition. Subsequently, researchers are increasingly being concerned on ensuring that their research findings are published immediately after completing the research. In order to gain entry in the field of research, it is imperative for researchers to seek the support of proficient mentors. Connor and Julia (2009) assert that mentors are charged with the responsibility of guiding the researcher through the research process. Kjeldsen (2006) defines a mentor as “an experienced and trusted supervisor or counselor” (p. 243).

In conducting my doctoral study, I will seek a research expert who will guide me in the research process. Some of the qualities that I will consider in selecting the mentor include trust, respect, and professionalism. With regard to professionalism, I will conduct a comprehensive evaluation in order to determine the quality of research publications by the mentor. Kjeldsen (2006) asserts that a mentor who has not published any of his or her research work cannot be regarded as a proficient mentor. On the other hand, increasing numbers of credible publications characterize a proficient mentor.

The process of selecting the mentor will also be guided by assessing the extent to which the target mentor’s work has been cited in other studies. Kjeldsen (2006) contends that the number of citations indicates the strength of the mentors’ research studies. In a bid to determine the strength of my mentor’s work, I will conduct a study on citations of his or her publications through the Science Citation Index. Moreover, the target mentor’s reputation will be critically analyzed by conducting a study on the mentor’s reputation from his or her friends and workmates. Some of the issues, which will be considered, include evaluating whether the mentor has previously supervised other research works and what the outcome of such research studies was (Minson, 2009). Assessing the above qualities will aid in determining the extent to which I share with him or her issues related to my career and professional life. Kjeldsen (2006) argues that incorporating and sustaining an effective mentorship program during the research process improves a particular research activity and subsequently the researchers’ career.

The next step after obtaining the above qualities will be establishing contact with a potential mentor by communicating through email or telephone. Moreover, contact will be established by conducting a brief meeting with the potential mentor. However, prior to the meeting, a thorough study on a selected research problem will be conducted. The study will entail reading the mentor’s publications. Subsequently, I will acquaint myself with his or her work. The meeting will be aimed at outlining the specific expectation of my research study. Consequently, I will be in a position to develop a strong relationship with the mentor, hence increasing the likelihood of improving my study findings.

In order to develop a strong relationship with the mentor, I will incorporate effective time management strategies. This aspect will improve the effectiveness with which I create sufficient time to share with my supervisor on various issues related to the research. Furthermore, I will respect the differences in personalities between the mentor and myself. Subsequently, I will accord the mentor the respect that he or she deserves. Respecting the differences in personalities will create a perfect opportunity to gain a lot from the mentor.

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By working with a supervisor, I will be in a position to improve the quality of my doctoral research. This assertion arises from the view that the mentor will act as a quality controller. For example, the mentor will be in a position to provide me with constructive criticism, hence leading to improvement in the technicality of the research. Osei (2013) further opines that working with mentors encourages a student to integrate best research practices hence improving his or her success.

Mistakes and negligence

Osei (2013) asserts that mistakes and errors can damage the reputation of a particular scientific research amongst research professionals and the society that consumes the research findings. Subsequently, it is imperative for researchers to ensure that their research studies are scrutinized carefully in order to identify mistakes.

When writing my doctoral research, I am cognizant of the fact that mistakes and errors may occur. Occurrence of errors and mistakes may adversely affect the integrity of a study. Subsequently, I must adhere to the set writing standards in order to improve the sanctity and sanity of the research process. In order to improve the quality of doctoral research, I will observe a number of issues. First, I will ensure that the study is based on well-formulated alternative and a null hypothesis. Subsequently, the study will be aimed at testing the validity of the hypothesis. Moreover, the study hypothesis will aid in determining the nature of data to be collected from the field.

In a bid to minimize mistakes and errors, I will engage in a comprehensive editing process in order to identify possible mistakes with regard to grammar, style, and structure. Different parties will proofread the draft in order to improve the process of identifying mistakes. By seeking assistance from other parties, I will be in a position to eliminate mistakes and improve the likelihood of completing the research within the set timeframe. The editing process will be conducted at every stage of the research process, for example, before presenting the draft to the doctorate committee and the supervisor (Rutherford-Hemming, Vlassess & Rogers, 2012). Moreover, I will undertake a comprehensive literature review by using credible sources of information such as scholarly journal in order to improve the credibility of the study. Moreover, I will avoid mistakes by eliminating any form of bias. For example, the data obtained from the market will not be modified in order to meet the research study’s interests.

By eliminating mistakes and negligence, I will be in a position to improve the reliability and validity of my academic research. Schneider (2009) argues that researchers should take into account two types of validity. They include internal and external validity. Internal validity entails the degree to which the findings of a particular research study can be correctly interpreted. On the other hand, external validity refers to the degree to which research findings can be applied to explain the prevailing conditions in the external environment. On the other hand, reliability refers to the extent to which the research findings can be reproduced in other studies.

Risk assessment

Research studies are faced by diverse risks and challenges. Subsequently, it is imperative for researchers to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment in order to identify the possible risks, which might affect the research outcome (Horrom, 2012). Some of the risks, which the research might evaluate, relate to financial obligations, reputation risk, and legal risks. Some of the main risks that I will take into account relate to falsification of research sources, study findings, and plagiarism (McCabe, Trevino & Butterfield, 2001). Furthermore, I will also desist from fabrication of research content. Engaging in these activities can result in severe consequences, which might span a long duration of time. According to Osei (2013) students should recognize that risks “are dynamic and they change over a period of time and constant assessment of any risk portfolio in scientific research is integral and paramount in any study” (p.107). In a bid to improve the risk assessment process, I will evaluate the data gathered continuously in addition to establishing an environment conducive for sharing information with the various parties involved in the research such as mentors and the research participants.

Data handling and reporting

The validity and reliability of a particular study are affected by the quality of data collected. Subsequently, it is imperative for researchers to ensure that credible data is obtained (Kjellstrom & Fridlund, 2010). Consequently, it is imperative for researchers to ensure that data is collected, handled, and reported effectively and efficiently. The process of conducting the doctoral research will involve human subjects. Subsequently, I will ensure that they are treated with respect and honor. This aspect will improve the likelihood of gathering credible and sufficient data, hence improving the quality of the research findings. The researcher will ensure that data is handled effectively at each stage of the study (Evans & Combs, 2008).

In a bid to ensure effective data collection, the researcher will utilize diverse data collection instruments such as questionnaires, tape recording, and taking notes. Using these data collection instruments will enhance the process of data collection and storage. Osei (2013) argues that data storage is a critical consideration in the process of conducting research. The researcher will ensure that only authorized individuals are permitted to handle the data. Moreover, the researcher will integrate a contingency plan with regard to data storage. This goal will be achieved by incorporating alternative data backups, hence ensuring that the data collected is not lost through various methods. Effective handling and reporting of data will enhance the process of conducting the study. Incomplete data is a major hindrance in the process of conducting research, which arises from the view that it hinders the data analysis process.

Conclusion

Compiling dissertations is one of the requirements in an individual’s effort to achieve a doctoral degree. However, the process is a complex undertaking and it consumes a substantial amount of time. The paper identifies ethical considerations as one of the most important aspects in the process of conducting doctoral research. Observing ethics aids in improving the validity, credibility, and reliability of a particular research study. Some of the ethical considerations that researchers should take into account include “plagiarism, informed consent, ensuring privacy and confidentiality, working with a mentor, avoiding mistakes and negligence, risk assessment, and effective data handling and reporting” (Comas-Forgas & Sureda-Negre, 2010, p.230).

Plagiarism is ranked as one of the major challenges faced by researchers and its prevalence has arisen from emergence of numerous research publications and the high rate of Internet penetration. Engaging in plagiarism may occur intentionally or unintentionally. Despite the nature of its occurrence, the researcher may experience severe damage such as penalty and expulsion from school. Subsequently, it is imperative for researcher to integrate effective strategies to deal with this challenge. Some of the strategies that can be adopted include recognizing the work of other authors through effective citation of the sources used. Moreover, researchers should be cognizant of the various forms of plagiarism such as patch writing and para-plagiarism, which can be achieved by ensuring that the paraphrased ideas and opinions are effectively cited.

Moreover, it is essential for the researcher to evaluate the diverse sources of risks that might affect the research process. The existence of risk may hinder the outcome of the study by leading to some areas being understudied. Furthermore, it is imperative for the researcher to take into account the legal risk that can arise from falsification and fabrication of research findings and sources. In a bid to survive in the research field, it is imperative for researchers to assess the dynamic nature of risk continually.

Seeking informed consent is another major consideration that the researcher will take into account. This goal will be achieved by ensuring that the research participants understand the purpose and value of the research, which will aid in establishing the rationale for participating in the research. Seeking informed consent will aid in protecting the research participants’ rights. Subsequently, the researcher will be in a position to obtain sufficient information from the field that will be used in conducting the study. Informed consent will also be sought from the various institutions to be considered in the research. Moreover, the process of seeking informed consent will entail explaining to the respondents the benefits and risks associated with participating in the research.

Confidentiality will be maintained by ensuring that the research the participants’ identities are concealed. Furthermore, confidentiality of the data provided will be ensured by limiting the occurrence of deductive disclosure. Ensuring confidentiality and privacy will create a sense of security to the research participants. Subsequently, the research participants will be in a position to provide the required information without fear. In a bid to improve the quality of my doctoral research, I will ensure that I work closely with my mentor. Subsequently, I will be in a position to gain sufficient knowledge on how to improve my research. Effective data handling and reporting will be ensured in order to avoid the likelihood of poor data analysis. Moreover, I will ensure that mistakes and negligence are avoided by editing the dissertation before presenting it to my supervisor and the doctorate committee.

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