While pursuing any graduate or doctoral program, especially in a scientific field, you will have to prepare a lot of assignments that will involve conducting extensive research. To excel in your degree or doctoral program, it is important that you learn how to conduct research effectively and then prepare an assignment based on it. However, mastering the art of conducting research only will not help you sustain in highly stressful degree programs, maintaining the integrity and following all the standard ethical practices and codes is also important. If any student wishes to obtain good grades or even get their research assignment accepted by the evaluator, it is imperative that they follow all the ethical practices.
Ethics are the set all written and unwritten rules and regulations that govern the behaviour of the members of a particular field. They also govern how others expect us to behave in the field. Research ethics are the set of rules that govern how scientific or any form of research is performed at colleges and universities, and more importantly, how it is presented, discussed, and disseminated. Research ethics are highly important as they promote the true aim of conducting research, i.e. disseminating knowledge. Without these ethical codes and practices, the model of collaborative work and experiments cannot sustain. Moreover, these ethical practices are the reason why the general public can trust scientific research. Therefore, for any student who has to prepare scientific or research assignments frequently, it is imperative to learn about the ethical codes to consider.
Here are some of the ethical considerations that you need to follow while preparing research assignments:
1. Voluntary participation
While preparing research assignments, there will be many times when you will have to conduct surveys or obtain the help of others in order to conduct the research effectively. In such situations, it is your responsibility to make sure that the participation of all the parties involved is voluntary. There should no form of coercion or deception involved. According to this code, you are required to make sure that you are not in a position to force the respondents of the survey that you are conducting or the participants in your research. Even if you are in such a position, using it to force anybody is absolutely unacceptable. If you need anyone’s assistance while conducting the research, they should be invited to participate, and that too, with a crystal clear intimation of the fact that they are not under any form of obligation. Moreover, it should also be made clear to the involved parties that if they refuse to assist in the research, it would leave to no negative eventualities.
2. Maintaining the confidentiality and anonymity of the participants
As the person conducting the survey or the research, it is your responsibility to maintain the confidentiality and the anonymity of the participants involved. However, there is a need to understand the difference between the two, as a lot of confusion generally arises. Anonymity can be the case when you do not know who the participants involved in the survey, are. It can be the case if you are conducting a random survey or are having an organization distribute a survey on your behalf. However, confidentiality is the case when you know the participants involved in the research but make sure that the identity will not be revealed while distributing the research. If there is any possibility that the participants will not be protected, you should make sure that they are. Moreover, this must be clearly intimated to them during the process of the research. However, if the participants clearly know that they will be identified or named while disseminating the research, there is no ethical issue or problem with the assignment.
3. No plagiarism
This is something that is essential not just to research assignments, but all forms of them. While preparing any form of assignment, you need to make sure that you do not misrepresent anybody’s work as your own. Even if you have to include someone else’s work in your assignment, proper referencing must be done. It is natural for a student to have an urge to simply copy others’ work in order to generate new ideas. With the presence of abundant data and information on the internet, it has become extremely easy for people to do so. However, doing so can lead to the rejection of your assignment. If it is highly necessary for you to paste somebody else’s work in your assignment, make sure that you cite it properly. In universities and colleges around the world, plagiarism is considered a breach of the research code of conduct and the student code of conduct in general. It is one of the biggest offences one can commit while preparing a research assignment. Therefore, make sure that you completely avoid it.
4. No academic fraud
If your research assignment is focused on collecting data, analysing it, and then also presenting it, then there are chances you might end up committing academic fraud, intentionally or even unintentionally. Academic fraud entails misrepresenting what has been done in the experiment. In most of the experiments or research, the student or researcher is looking to achieve a desirable result or conclusion. The fact that the desired result is known to the researcher increases the possibility of academic fraud being committed. It can include making up data and presenting it as authentic or even putting forth conclusions that are not accurate according to the research data obtained. Since the students are inexperienced as compared to professional researchers, they may find it difficult to access the correct people or to arrive at the right sort of conclusions. Therefore, they are more prone to simply makeup data and pass on their research as top-quality and highly conclusive. However, one should keep in mind that academic fraud is seen in the same light as plagiarism, if not worse.
5. Conflicts of interest
This is another ethical issue that needs to be considered while preparing a research assignment. This issue can take place when you or any of the parties involved in the research are, in a way, employed in the industry you are researching. Even if you are an interested stakeholder in the industry, it can lead to a conflict of interest. In such a situation, the research can become an extremely good opportunity for one to gain inside information about a business and use it for competitive advantage. One of the easiest ways to avoid a conflict of interest is to make sure that you do not place yourself in such a group in the first place. However, if you come to know about a conflict of interest after you have already formed your group to conduct research, it is imperative that you disclose it. However, one should keep in mind that this is not encouraged. As a researcher, you should make sure that there is no conflict of interest to begin with.
6. Potential for harm
Generally, there are a lot of people involved in a research project. Even if you are supposed to submit the project or assignment as an individual, there are chances that you will take the help of others to complete the assignment effectively. Ideally, in a research project, there should be no potential for any harm to occur to the participants involved. However, the researcher should understand that there are a number of ways in which the participants can be harmed. It can be psychological, physical, emotional, and of many other kinds. Even if there is the smallest potential for harm in your project, the researcher should figure out how it can be overcome. This is something that is the most difficult for students to address as it requires them to think from the participants’ point of view. While trying to figu re this out, make sure that you keep in mind that it is the question of whether the participants believe that some harm could occur or not and not you.
7. Discuss intellectual property
As already mentioned, there are high chances for you to have a lot of participants in the project or assignment. However, it is also quite likely that you are required to submit the assignment as an individual at the university or college. Therefore, it is quite necessary for you to discuss the intellectual property with all the stakeholders involved. This is something that is absolutely imperative when it comes to professional researchers and members of academia. However, the student researchers are also required to be clear about this with the participants of a project. It is always better to have a conversation about who will get the credit for the work and who will not instead of having disagreements and conflicts later on. It can also be argued that the faculty members should discuss the publication process and issues related to credit with the students and guide them through the process. Even if you have the best of plans, it can result in a dispute. Therefore, make sure that you discuss the intellectual property.
Ideally, there should be no deceit involved in a research project or assignment. It is an ethical violation. However, it is also true that in some cases, telling the respondents of a survey or research might influence or bias their responses or behaviour. In most of the situations, if the conclusion or outcome of research directly impacts the life of an individual, then this knowledge will most likely influence his response. Therefore, while conducting your research in order to prepare the assignment, if you face such a situation, you should factor in whether misleading or hiding some information about the research or survey from the respondents outweighs any potential harm that they might incur on knowing the information. There can be situations where the deceit is absolutely minor. However, deceit should only be used when there is no other way to conduct the survey or the research and the professor or the evaluator of the research is well aware of it. However, if possible, deceit should be avoided at all costs.
This is an ethical issue that you might face if your project or assignment involves observing individuals or participants. Moreover, this becomes an issue, especially in the cases where you are required to observe people in a public place. In such a case, if you tell the people that they are being observed or directly ask them the question that you need to, it will definitely alter their behaviour or response. One of the most effective ways to avoid having this issue is to place a notice at the entrance of the public place in question stating that the people in the place are being observed. By doing so, you will have informed everyone about the research or the survey and at the same time, minimalized the altering of behaviour. It would allow the individuals not willing to participate in the survey or research to avoid the area. However, if you do not take such a measure, it might lead to an ethical issue. Therefore, make sure that you take the necessary measures.
10. Public accountability
This is another important ethical issue that all students should take into consideration while preparing a research assignment. If your assignment, research, or survey involves any form of human or animal participation, it is imperative that you follow all the governmental and university policies on animal care and human subject protection. A student should keep in mind that disregarding any of the policies laid out by the university or college with respect to the assignments or research can lead to his disqualification or the assignment being rejected. Moreover, if a student or researcher follows all the governmental and institutional guidelines, it ensures his accountability towards the public. It is highly necessary that you follow all these guidelines and do not disregard them. Keep in mind that any form of research, whether scientific or not, should be conducted while keeping in mind the accountability towards the public.
There are several other ethical codes and practices that one should keep in mind while preparing a research assignment. However, these 10 codes and practices will take you quite far towards maintaining the integrity of the assignment.