Comments wythnos 9:

Ethics in qualitative methods:

Ethics In Qualitative Methods

A debate has recently been raised into the topic of whether it is ethically acceptable for researchers to use the internet and public web pages in order to gather qualitative data about an individual. Furthermore, it has have been found that some researchers base the findings of research studies on how they believe an individual portray themselves on social networking sites, online blogs and other accessible web pages. Those who believe that this method of retrieving data is ethical argue that individuals should consider not writing on public web pages if they are not prepared to be consent with the concept of researchers exploiting their comments for research purposes. However, personally I do not believe that it is ethically or scientifically correct to draw conclusions about a relationship between certain variables and human behaviour based on the comments that people write on unrestricted websites.

I believe that it is ethically unacceptable to retrieve data from individuals without asking for permission before doing so. Although their comments are posted on public websites for anyone to see, I believe that most individuals would agree that they would feel rather uncomfortable at the concept of a professional researcher evaluating their comments with the intention of discovering an indication of a symptom of some sort. Furthermore, researchers cannot meet the requirements of the British Psychological Society’s ethical guidelines which involve researchers ensuring that they assemble a signed informed consent form from each participant that would be involved in their study. This would not be possible if the researchers have gathered their data by rummaging through accessible web pages as the participants themselves would not even be aware of their contribution towards the research study. The BPS also requires that researchers offer a de-briefing session at the end of every study. Again, this would not be possible because the individuals involved in the study would not be aware of doing so.

Additionally, the method of analysing people’s public comments on unrestricted web pages in order to retrieve data is not very scientific solely based on the reason that researchers cannot guarantee that the comments posted on the public websites are truly representative of the individuals. Although the individuals are not aware when posting an opinion on a public website, of the concept of a researcher analysing their comments in order to obtain a conclusion about their personality or behaviour, they are fully aware of the concept that their comments are open for the general public to view. Consequently, the individuals may hide their true beliefs and opinions in order to conform to their peers thus creating a bias in the findings of the research study. Therefore to conclude, I believe that researchers should always follow the ethical guidelines of the BPS in order to conduct a valid and reliable research study. Defying these guidelines can result in corrupt research strategies that can consequently produce a major bias in the findings of a study.