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Unethical Practices in Sociology or Research

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Review the information in the instructional materials about Research Ethics. With the lesson of Watson's "Little Albert" study in mind, locate and review one website or article about unethical practices in sociology or research or science. Why are ethics needed in the world of science and sociology?

What is the role of ethics in sociological research?
Why are they needed specifically in sociological research?
What could happen during a study if it did not have a formal code of ethics? Give an example of a violation of ethics in research that has occurred. What was the effect of this ethical violation?

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Solution Summary

Using Watson's "Little Albert" study as a backdrop, this solution overviews aspects of ethics in sociology e.g., why is it needed, role it plays, formal code of ethic and examples of violations.

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Interesting discussion! One approach is to look at information from various sources, which you can then draw on for your final copy. This is the approach this response takes.

In the article, "Deception Methods in Psychology: Have They Changed in 23 Years?" (
Joan E. Sieber, Rebecca Iannuzzo, Beverly Rodriguez 1995, Vol. 5, No. 1, Pages 67-85), the authors discuss the ethics of deception in research and whether or not it has changed over time. Also see the article attached discussing little Albert experiment.

1. What is the role of ethics in sociological research?

The role of ethics in sociological research is to protect the participant from harm (e.g., privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, voluntary participation, free to stop at any time, will receive counseling if an unexpected emotional response occurred, etc.), but also to protect the research community as well (e.g., reputation, protect the society from law suits, etc.) and the society as a whole (valid results, trust in research, etc.). There will be at least some ethical considerations in any piece of research (see for example Walford 2001, as cited in http://sru.soc.surrey.ac.uk/SRU39.html). However, ethics is intended to prevent all actions, such as violence or abuse, which we would all agree are indefensible in any research situation. There is also at least partial agreement among social science researchers over what is defensible and what is not. Professional societies, such as the BSA, BPS and BERA, publish agreed lists of what ...

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