Scientific Research: Ethics and Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 6
Words: 1782
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7 min
Study level: Master

Ethics is one of the crucial principles applied in scientific research conducting. Ethics can be defined as conformance to the standards set in specific codes concerning scientific research. As Bhattacherjee (2012) states, “such standards are often defined at a disciplinary level through a professional code of conduct, and sometimes enforced by university committees called even Institutional Review Board” (p. 137). This paper aims to investigate the fundamental ethical principles of scientific research, discuss the purpose of the Institutional Review Board, and reveal the essence of the Code of ethics for psychologists.

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Ethical Considerations for Various Research Design

The application of ethical considerations is essential in every study to protect human subjects. Ethical standards in research activities are widely accepted to defend the participants from any harm. There are several types of ethical principles each research should lean on. Firstly, voluntary participation and harmlessness denote that the participants have the right to choose if they want to engage in the research or not, and to decide if they wish to quit the experiment due to their conscious. Secondly, Bhattacherjee (2012) suggests that “all participants must receive and sign an Informed Consent form that clearly describes their right not to participate and right to withdraw, before their responses in the study can be recorded” (p.137). Thirdly, anonymity and confidentiality ensure the non-disclosure of participants’ names, addresses, and diverse personal data. The fourth principle concerns beneficence, that is, causing no harm to human subjects and considering possible risks and benefits before conducting research. Finally, “researchers also have ethical obligations to the scientific community on how data is analyzed and reported in their study” (Bhattacherjee, 2012, p. 139). The statement implies that some unexpected findings must be disclosed because if they are hidden, the research will prove to be irrelevant.

Qualitative Research Design

A qualitative study has an in-depth nature of the investigation process. This research design does not collect numerical data but instead pays attention to meaning-making by answering the questions of how some phenomena occurred and why they took place. Therefore, the application of ethical standards resonates explicitly with this type of research. Qualitative research is widely applied in diverse disciplines such as social and natural sciences.

First of all, respondents should grant voluntary participation and informed consent. The statement implies that all the participants should be aware of the questions they will be asked, have power of freedom, that is, the right to choose whether to participate or refuse. Furthermore, the subjects’ consent is obtained only after a detailed explanation of the study’s aims and process. Usually, the consent should be in a written form to avoid the occurrence of any violations.

Another significant consideration relates to anonymity and confidentiality. As Bhattacherjee (2012) suggests, “anonymity implies that the researcher or readers of the final research report or paper cannot identify a given response with a specific respondent” (p. 138). The privacy of the interview environment must be managed through any means of collecting the data. In addition to this the researcher encounters problems concerning preserving confidentiality, especially in qualitative research where conduct is personal, the sample is smaller, and reports demonstrate questions from interviews.

Moreover, a qualitative study faces one more ethical consideration called beneficence. In collecting qualitative data, it is important to act out of protecting subjects from harm. Scientists assert that “research must be of value to participants, their community, country or development practice more broadly, be designed to minimize risks and participants must be duly informed of potential benefits and risks” (Principles and Guidelines, 2016, p. 4). Therefore, primarily researchers must evaluate risks and benefits. If risks outweigh, then the study should be either resigned or redesigned.

Quantitative Research Design

The quantitative study includes stringent requirements for data gathering. The data is typically linked to the variables which can be expressed in the forms of numbers, tables, statistics, and graphs. The measure of the data researches utilizes statistical, mathematical, or computational techniques. The rules are the link between the theory and numerical data received. Quantitative research design can be used among different disciplines, including psychology, gender studies, political science, sociology, and others.

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As a result, the most important ethical consideration is analysis and reporting, which means that the data and findings must be presented concisely. Moreover, no figures or results must be hidden to correspond to the hypothesis (Zyphur & Pierides, 2017). It is considered unethical to give wrong numbers as it misleads both researchers and readers. The data gatherers should be precise, and people who commission the research must check them properly to check if the researcher twisted the figures and whether the findings correlate to the set objectives.

The other ethical principle of quantitative research design is informed consent, which provides an established agreement with the human subjects. Moreover, this type of research includes the disclosure principle. According to Bhattacherjee (2012), “researchers must provide some information about their study to potential subjects before data collection to help them decide whether or not they wish to participate” (p. 139). The statement implies that people are supposed to know about the expected risks, benefits, and outcomes.

Evaluation Research Design

The goal of evaluation or assessment research is to assess services, policies, or interventions. Evaluation research includes theoretical perspective and utilizes qualitative and quantitative methods. However, this type of scientific research has some distinguishing features: it offers practical actions involves stakeholders and identifies the spheres of improvement. Undoubtedly, the principle of ethics concerning confidentiality is primary in evaluation research design as each person’s intrinsic value must be kept in privacy. The evaluators must be skilled enough to conduct the relevant inquiry without causing harm to anyone, that is, of the beneficence principle (Kara, 2018). Moreover, the integrity as an ethical consideration should be provided; therefore the evaluators should behave with transparency and honesty to avoid faulty situations. In general, all ethical considerations must be applied to this type of research.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

The United States imposed a federal law that governs all the researchers that involve human subjects as participants. Institutional Review Board (IRB) is an administrative body that was established to protect the welfare of research activities conducted with the involvement of participants (Institutional Review Board, n.d.). Among other duties of the IRB is checking the adherence to all the federal, local, and state regulations.

The purpose of IRB at Trident is to oversee procedures of how the college protects the rights of human subjects that correspond with the federal laws and regulation. Thus, the IRB reviews the research that includes participation of human subjects, ensures they were informed and their personal information is kept private, checks if the ethical standards were followed, and finds out if the researchers have qualification to conduct the study.

Several components are included in the IRB application at Trident. The first part is the “Administrative Information” that provides the title for protocol and the investigator’s primary data, including full name, email, college and others. The second part “Study Protocol and Methodology” comprises of the objectives and questions of research, the already collected data and its type and sources, and study sites. The next section called “Participants, Recruitment, and Compensation” is composed of the points concerning the number of participants, their personal information, and the recruitment methods. “Risks and Benefits” part provides a detailed explanation of expected losses and outcomes and suggests how they can be minimized or enhanced. The following two parts establish the understanding of confidentiality, and informed consent and the seventh point inquires whether the study site has its IRB. Finally, the “Attachment” sector demands the required documents for IRB.

Professional Code of Ethics in Psychology

Many researchers have established different codes of ethics suitable for their working environment. Commonly, such systems describe the acceptable or unacceptable patterns of behavior within a working area (Resnik, 2018). In general, the Code of ethics is a set of guidelines establishing the ethical norms that govern the professional’s behavior and the decision-making process. Any area, whether it is nursing, teaching, or consulting, has its own documented set of such guidelines.

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Ethics is mainly in the field of psychology due to its close relation to research and therapy. As a result, the American Psychological Association (APA) established a Code of Conduct that psychologists must rely on during the decision-making activity. The first edition was published in 1953, and the last amendment was made in 2016. The Code comprises ethical standards that impose legal ramifications on wrong behavior and critical principles which inspire the psychologists.

Among the five ethical standards are:

  1. Beneficence and non-maleficence which presume to protect those who the psychologists work with and encourage eliminating any prejudices affecting their work;
  2. Fidelity and responsibility aimed at ensuring whether other professionals stick to high ethical considerations;
  3. Integrity. This standard denotes that the professionals must no mislead and deceive anyone they deal with;
  4. Justice is aimed at treating people equally while therapies or other interactions;
  5. Respect for people’s rights and dignity should be respected, and the various biases must be minimized to not expose a client to suffering.

The APA also gives an extended set of ten critical ethical issues in the field of psychology:

  1. Resolving ethical issues. This standard defines the boundaries of the professional’s competence;
  2. Competence assists the psychologies in understanding how to work with a client that is out of expertise. It also provides one with the ability to delegate tasks and make professional judgments;
  3. Human relations. This standard allows establishing interaction with other workers in a field. It helps to eliminate harassment, any harm, or discrimination;
  4. Privacy and confidentiality make the psychologist keep the patient’ data in privacy;
  5. Advertising and other public statement implies that the works must not exaggerate their skills while advertising their services;
  6. Record keeping and fees. The records must be kept even after the treatment as others may use it for assessing and conducting experiments;
  7. Education and training. When psychologists become mentors that should rely on evidence-based research;
  8. Research and publication. If a psychologist carries out a study, they must inform the university, obtain approval from it, and inform the human subjects about the potential outcomes and risks;
  9. Assessment should be conducted only after the informed consent;
  10. Therapy. Before attending therapy, a psychologist must receive permission from the patient and inform them of the interventions.


In conclusion, it is relevant to state that using ethical principles while conducting a research is crucial because otherwise they become faulty. The importance of moral consideration is essential as it concerns the non-violation of the participant’s rights. Therefore, the Institutional Review Board appraises the researches to prove the standards were not neglected. Every sphere of human activity owns its Code of ethics, which provides necessary behavioral rules that govern the decision-making.


  1. Bhattacherjee, A. (2012). Social science research: Principles, methods, and practices. University of South Florida.
  2. Institutional Review Board. (n.d.). Web.
  3. Institutional review board: Orientation and resources. (n.d.).
  4. Kara, H. (2018) Research ethics in the real world: Euro-Western and indigenous perspectives. Policy Press.
  5. Principles and guidelines for ethical research and evaluation in development. (2016). Australian Council for International Development.
  6. Resnik, D. (2018). The ethics of research with human subjects. Springer.
  7. Zyphur, M. J., & Pierides, D. C. (2017). Is quantitative research ethical? Tools for ethically practicing, evaluating, and using quantitative research. Journal of Business Ethics, 143(1), 1–16.