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.


5 thoughts on “Ethics in qualitative methods:

  1. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your blog and found your opinions about this issue/debate very interesting. I totally agree with you that using information without getting consent from the person who has provided this information is ethically unacceptable. I also liked the way that you thought further than the actual research and the results formed from it by mentioning the debrief sheet. Every participant must give their consent when participating in a study, furthermore each participant will always receive a debrief sheet at the end of a study. If information is taken from a blog the researcher should ask for consent and also give them a debrief sheet. I have come to the same conclusion as you that using internet sources without consent from the writer is unethical and the BPS guidelines should always be followed.
    Thank you.

  2. Hi psuc18, I also enjoyed reading you blog, it was well written and interesting. I would like to ask you if you have found any documents documenting the British Psychological Society’s ethics guidance towards using blogs in research since I have found none? I personally disagree with your view on having consent before using these blogs for research. I have found many documents regarding the use of blogs for such research stating that no permission would be needed, and even the UK copyrights act states that using peoples blogs are allowed for research studies.

  3. Pingback: Blog comments week 8/9 « psuccb

  4. I enjoyed reading your blog that states why using the internet for qualitative research is unethical. However, I disagree with this and think that using internet sources for qualitative research is ethical. I agree with your point that without informed consent the research would not be ethical, but if the researcher contacts the individual who wrote the data asking for permission to use it, then I believe that it is ethical. By contacting the individuals the researcher can make sure that they are able to debrief them at the end. I agree with your closing paragraph that states that in order for the research to be ethical researchers should follow the guidelines set by the BPS.

  5. Your blog is excellent, clear and consise about your opinion of using the internet for qualititive methods of data collecting, I agree with some aspects such as facebook as people should have the right to privacy to friends and family memebers on posts and blogging however you could still use external websites in order to record and analyse their blog. You could also ask for their permission through a terms and conditions in order to use their data collected through the website, following up through video chat in order to note the personality of this person and other notable information. Therefore in my opinion their are ways to keep with the BPS guidelines through using the internet.
    Thanks 🙂

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