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7. Ethical considerations for data collection and research tools

The highest ethical standards must be upheld when collecting data and the research plan must describe the measures that will be taken to protect the participants involved. In your research you may wish to use the following research methods. There are several 'ethical' advantages and disadvantages with each method but as a quick introduction and guide, try to jot down some thoughts on the questionnaires, interviews and observation, before accessing short guidance points for each one. You can also discuss each point with a partner.

1

Questionnaires

While designing questionnaires, care should be taken that:

- All information gathered must be anonymous.

- The questions should be carefully written to avoid bias and should not be opinionated or misleading.

- Participants have the right to not complete any particular items in the questionnaire and to withdraw at any point during the study.

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2

Interviews

The main ethical issues to be considered are those of:

- Confidentiality - remember that an interview is a personal interaction and everything recorded needs to remain confidential to protect the participant.

- Think about who else will be reading/verifying the data and transcriptions. Do they need to sign a confidentiality agreement?

- Can what is being said and what is being recorded, be misinterpreted? Remember to make clear and detailed notes to avoid confusion.

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3

Observation

This could be overt or covert. Considerations are:

- In overt observation, it needs to be considered that the presence of an observer may be threatening and may exert an influence on behaviour.

- As for covert observation, it is the violation of the principle of informed consent and hence should be used only in situations where there is no other alternative method.

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