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Getting Started

This assignment brings the focus of research to a critical point in our learning that involves two topics with implications of morality, ethics and politics. Much of the work you have encountered with the critical thinking exercises have resonated with some content pertaining to ethical implications, but now you will be asked to consider how these two lenses impact research and its results. The research holds a significant responsibility to report in an unbiased manner while always maintaining the highest standards of ethics. To lose focus of either could jeopardize not only the research impact but ultimately the researcher’s reputation.
Upon successful completion of this discussion, you will be able to:

Consider ethical and political implications on your writing.

Instructions

Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade. 
Read Chapter 8 and 9 of How to Critique Journal Articles in the Social Sciences.
Follow the instructions for Exercise 8.1 on page 94 and Exercise 9.1 on page 98 and write a 300 – 400 word response explaining your findings of the article searches, locations, and contents.  Remember to consider the questions listed in the text as you craft your response. 
Because this is a writing exercise, focus on generating clear ideas rather than a formal, structured response. 
Use APA format for all in-text citations and references and Grammarly to ensure your submission is free of writing errors. 
Post your initial response by the end of day 4 of the workshop. 
Read and respond to at least two of your classmates’ postings, as well as any follow-up instructor questions directed at you, by the end of the workshop. 
Your postings are interactions with your classmates and instructor that should facilitate engaging dialogue and provide evidence of critical thinking. For this discussion, focus on the following:

Extension: Expand the discussion.
Challenge: Interrogate assumptions, conclusions or interpretations.
Relational: Make comparisons or contrasts of themes, ideas, or issues.
Clarification: Provide clarification to classmates’ questions and provide insight into the discussion.

Review the associated rubric

6.2 Discussion: Writing Exercise – Ethics & Politics
For the writing exercise, you only need to complete Exercise 8.1 in the book How to Critique Journal Articles in the Social Sciences.  There are plenty of talking points in 8.1 to give you ample opportunity to complete the discussion in 300 to 400 words.

The initial post requires the use of only one article. No other references are required or should be used.
The initial post is due by midnight Friday of this workshop.
One response is required and is due by midnight Sunday, the close of this workshop.

TIP: You can use an article from a prior assignment to complete this exercise. Or, you might consider locating a new article that will support this exercise as well as the completion of your industry article.

8/4/2021 Preview Rubric: Writing Exercise (30 Points) – 3SU2021 Craft Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01A) – Indiana Wesleyan University

https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lp/rubrics/preview.d2l?ou=144274&rubricId=432929&originTool=quicklinks 1/3

Writing Exercise (30 Points)
Course: 3SU2021 Craft Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01A)

Criteria Excellent Competent
Needs
Improvement

Inadequate/Faili
ng

Criterion Score

Quality of

Content

/ 1010 points

Thoroughly

addresses the

prompt(s).

Clearly

demonstrates

understanding of

relevant course

concepts using

course materials

and additional

resources (with

citations and

references).

Provides clear

evidence of

critical thinking.

9 points

(8-9 Points)

Adequately

addresses the

prompt(s).

Demonstrates a

basic

understanding of

relevant course

concepts using

course materials

and additional

resources (with

citations and

references).

Provides some

evidence of

critical thinking

7 points

Partially

addresses the

prompt(s) or

addresses only

some of the

prompts.

Demonstrates a

limited

understanding of

relevant course

concepts using

course materials

and additional

resources (with

citations and

references).

Provides limited

evidence of

critical thinking.

6 points

(0-6 Points)

Minimally

addresses or

does not address

the prompt(s).

Does not

adequately

demonstrate an

understanding of

relevant course

concepts or

provide evidence

of critical

thinking.

8/4/2021 Preview Rubric: Writing Exercise (30 Points) – 3SU2021 Craft Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01A) – Indiana Wesleyan University

https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lp/rubrics/preview.d2l?ou=144274&rubricId=432929&originTool=quicklinks 2/3

Total / 30

Criteria Excellent Competent
Needs
Improvement

Inadequate/Faili
ng

Criterion Score

Quality

Interaction

/ 10

Grammar and

Mechanics

/ 10

10 points

Demonstrates

critical thinking

through quality

interaction with

at least two

classmates by

directly

commenting on

their ideas and

making

connections to

relevant content.

Advances the

discussion by

introducing new

ideas, asking

clarifying

questions, and

synthesizing

concepts.

9 points

(8-9 Points)

Demonstrates

critical thinking

through quality

interaction with

at least two

classmates by

directly

commenting on

their ideas and

making

connections to

relevant content.

7 points

Interaction is

incomplete (only

one quality

response) or

lacking in quality

in both

responses.

6 points

(0-6 Points)

Interaction is

incomplete and is

lacking in quality.

10 points

Written

communication is

easy to read and

understand.

Communicates

clearly through

the effective

control of

grammar and

spelling.

9 points

(8-9 Points)

Written

communication is

readable.

Communicates

clearly through

the control of

grammar and

spelling, with

only minimal

errors.

7 points

Written

communication is

not as clear due

to a few issues

with the

effective control

of grammar and

spelling.

6 points

(0-6 Points)

No

communication

or written

communication is

not as clear due

to many issues

with the

effective control

of grammar and

spelling.

8/4/2021 Preview Rubric: Writing Exercise (30 Points) – 3SU2021 Craft Academic Writing for Bus (BADM-700-01A) – Indiana Wesleyan University

https://brightspace.indwes.edu/d2l/lp/rubrics/preview.d2l?ou=144274&rubricId=432929&originTool=quicklinks 3/3

Overall Score

Excellent
28 points minimum

Set at 92% – which is

lowest A.

Competent
25 points minimum

Set at 82% – which is

lowest B.

Needs Improvement
22 points minimum

Set at 72% – which is

lowest C.

Inadequate/Fail

ing
0 points minimum

Set at 0

CHAPTER 8

ETHICS

In 
Chapters 8
 and 
9
, we’ll focus on two moral issues that are relevant to almost any empirical journal article—ethics and politics. These two concepts are, of course,
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 complex and difficult to define. For the purposes of this book, ethics has to do with the morality of research practices: Do researchers treat respondents fairly and humanely, or are they doing harm to those who participate in their studies? Politics has to do with the morality of research goals or purposes: What positive or negative consequences will the research have on the world? How might a study’s findings be used to further some moral agenda beyond the halls of academia?
This chapter focuses on ethics. Compared to the explicit attention that researchers tend to give to their conceptual definitions, literature reviews, measurements, sampling, and analytical techniques, ethics can sometimes be given short shrift. Nevertheless, important ethical questions can be asked of most studies, and comparisons can be made with the more casual investigations that people undertake in their everyday lives.
ETHICS IN EVERYDAY LIFE: CASUAL SNOOPING AND GOSSIP

My wife and I don’t have children, though we’ve been married for almost 15 years. Over that time, many friends, relatives, and acquaintances have asked, “Do you have any kids?” and “When are you going to have kids?” When we reply that we aren’t going to have children, they often appear somewhat surprised and ask, “Really? Why not?”
In the course of a sociable conversation, these questions appear quite ordinary and routine. Even to me they seem mildly amusing—“At least we’re not talking about the weather,” I tell myself. My spouse also seems to take the questioning in stride, for the most part.
Yet, if you think about it, such questioning is fraught with peril. Simple questions about having children could generate quite a bit of embarrassment, shame, sadness, and even distress. What if my spouse and I have fertility issues or sexual dysfunction? Or, maybe we lost our first child in a devastating tragedy and can’t bring ourselves to try again. Perhaps we doubt our ability to adequately parent due to financial reasons (we could have large student loans, medical expenses, etc.) or due to emotional reasons (we could be in marital counseling on the verge of divorce). Maybe a genetic illness runs in our families, causing some trepidation about raising an afflicted child. Or, perhaps we have fervent beliefs about the destructive environmental effects of overpopulation. Maybe we also realize that discussing any of these issues could expose us to unwanted pity or to ridicule.
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Along with risky questioning, everyday conversationalists also engage in snooping and gossiping. Friends, neighbors, and other companions want to know: who is having relationship trouble, who is having financial success, who has gained or lost weight, who votes Democratic or Republican, and so on. People look and listen to discover the latest, and then they reveal and discuss it with others. “Guess what! I found out why the Joneses don’t have kids,” you might imagine someone saying. With the advent of the Internet, personal information obtained by snooping or gossip can now be shared by text, chat, and e-mail, or posted on a website, leading to the public disparagement of someone’s reputation. (One of the most notorious cases involves an undergraduate at Rutgers who used a hidden camera to display his roommate’s sexual encounter on the web.)
I’m painting a grim picture. It’s also true that people can be tactful—they’re sometimes cautious about asking sensitive questions, minding their own business, and keeping secrets to themselves.
Nonetheless, I would argue that, on average, social scientists tend to do a better job of collecting and sharing information in an ethical manner—as I hope to show in the next section.
ETHICAL PRACTICES THAT SET SOCIAL RESEARCH ABOVE ORDINARY HUMAN INQUIRY

Like everyday conversationalists, social scientists are often very interested in people’s private lives. Researchers ask detailed questions about highly personal topics, from less risky inquiries—such as “Who will you vote for in the upcoming presidential election?” and “How many hours of television do you watch each week?”—to highly sensitive inquiries—such as “Have you ever had a venereal disease?” and “How often do you have suicidal thoughts?”
Researchers store this information for months or years, and share it with others, by making presentations at conferences and publishing articles in journals. Yet, they rarely cause anyone any public embarrassment or engage in anything that resembles ordinary gossip.
Researchers employ a number of practices that make their investigations much more ethically sound than the casual inquiries that people conduct in everyday life. Social scientists take numerous steps to avoid harming those who participate in their studies.
First, before making contact with respondents, researchers usually think through the ethical dilemmas they may face. For example, survey researchers will carefully read and reread the questions they plan to ask respondents and imagine how each item might be interpreted or received by respondents. They adjust phrasing so that it is less likely to make respondents feel threatened; they adjust the order of the questions in order to ease into more sensitive topics. Ordinary conversationalists may engage in some of these behaviors as well (so as not to offend their companions) but (most likely) not with the amount of forethought and planning that researchers exhibit.
Also, before research begins, social scientists regularly submit their research proposals to an institutional review board (IRB), which usually consists of university faculty and staff. IRBs double-check that researchers are not engaging in potentially harmful conduct and encourage researchers to imagine and prepare for what could go wrong. Moreover, scholars often receive informal feedback on their research plans from collaborators and mentors. And, as part of their literature reviews, researchers read about the ethical dilemmas that prior scholars have encountered and the strategies that can be used to deal with them. In addition, the scholarly associations that researchers join—such as the American Sociological Association (ASA) and American Psychological Association (APA)
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—have ethical codes of conduct that members must agree to abide by.
Researchers usually obtain informed consent from research participants with whom they interact. Subjects are told that their participation is voluntary and that they may cease participation at any time without retribution. A respondent can hang up during a phone survey, rip up his or her paper-and-pencil questionnaire, walk out of an experiment, and so on, without fear of reprisal. Researchers usually seek confirmation (verbally or in writing) that subjects understand the voluntary nature of their participation before a study proceeds. In contrast, imagine how a similar situation may play out in everyday life: If we dislike a line of questioning, we may say, “None of your business,” and walk away, but that will likely generate negative emotions and damage personal relationships among our coworkers, friends, and family—people whom we may see on a regular basis.
Earlier I stated that ordinary conversationalists seem to have much curiosity and long memories for gossip. Social scientists, too, want to collect and store personal information, but they take steps to ensure that information does not leak out and harm anyone’s reputation—or their relationships, employment prospects, self-esteem, and so on. Researchers sometimes keep data under lock and key or on hard drives that are password protected or not networked. They may separate the data from the name of the person who supplied it so that no one—in some studies not even the researchers themselves—can connect a particular set of answers with any particular individual.
Perhaps most importantly, researchers almost never publicly reveal the identities of respondents. In the case of statistical data, responses are grouped so that no participant is identifiable. If the data is qualitative, social scientists tend to protect the source. For example, if a respondent is quoted at length, then the researcher will withhold or change the name of the speaker; moreover, any personally identifying information within the quote may be deleted or altered so that readers cannot connect any particular statement with any specific individual.
Ethical Dilemmas
Social scientists tend to behave cautiously when they collect data and publish their findings. Nevertheless, they’re not perfect. On very rare occasions, scholars make stunningly immoral choices. But what’s more interesting are the common ethical gray areas that pervade social research. Even the most well-intentioned researchers face ethical dilemmas that defy simple solutions and snap judgments. Different courses of action can each have pros and cons that must be identified and compared. A researcher’s conduct may be morally praiseworthy from one point of view but reprehensible from another.
Consider the following examples, which by no means constitute an exhaustive or representative list. I have focused on only one area of research ethics—that of informed consent—in order to provide some illustrations of the kinds of ethical dilemmas that pervade social research.
 
• Researchers are not supposed to coerce people into participating in their studies. Participation should be voluntary. Yet, when a professor asks students to fill out a survey or partake in an experiment, do respondents feel any pressure to oblige? Do students wonder if their grades will be impacted by nonparticipation (Babbie, 2010, p. 65)? Participation may be described as optional because it is merely a chance to earn extra credit, but if the students are graded on a curve, then is it truly optional? To resolve this dilemma, students may be offered an alternative way to obtain extra credit. But if the alternative—such as writing a paper—is perceived as onerous, then is a subtle form of coercion still taking place? (See Trafimow, Madson, & Gwizdowski, 2006, p. 247)
• Before collecting data from an organization, a researcher may (quite appropriately) seek permission from someone in a position of authority. Once obtained, the researcher may then proceed to obtain informed consent from subordinates in that organization. However, might those subordinates’ participation be influenced by the implicit or explicit endorsement of their superiors? For example, if a CEO allows a researcher to collect data about his or her company, then might the workers feel pressure (real or imagined) to participate?
• When collecting data from children, an IRB may require researchers to obtain informed consent from parents or legal guardians. This seems sensible as children are a vulnerable population that must be given extra protection. However, the requirement adds a layer of difficulty and creates new ethical dilemmas. For example, parents may not be aware that their children engage in certain behaviors, such as smoking, sexual intercourse, or gang activity. Should researchers inform parents that their children have been selected for inclusion in a study because of these behaviors? What punitive harm might befall the children? Or, alternatively, what benefits may come to the children? (Diviak, Curry, Emery, & Mermelstein, 2004; Israel & Hay, 2006, p. 72)
• Should small financial incentives be used to entice low-income people to participate in research? Is that a way of exploiting the poor, or would not offering compensation be exploitive? (Israel & Hay, 2006, p. 65)
• The goal of obtaining informed consent is important, but so is the goal of obtaining accurate information. At times, the two goals seem in conflict. Some researchers argue that consent forms can bias their samples (as some people refuse to participate when presented with a legalistic document) and their data (as some people may behave differently after signing such documents). Researchers often chafe when an IRB requires usage of a long informed-consent document. (Israel & Hay, 2006, pp. 66–68)
• The success of many experiments depends on participants not knowing what the point of the study is. Should researchers compensate for this deception by debriefing participants at the end of the study? Will understanding the point of a study make participants feel better or worse about being deceived? (Babbie, 2010, p. 70)
• Researchers may doubt that respondents have read or understood a consent form. Should researchers take steps to ensure that all respondents have fully comprehended the main points of a consent form? How much time should be devoted to that task? Will it alienate or empower respondents? Should consent be solicited only once at the outset of the research? Or, should it be reconfirmed as the research progresses? (Sin, 2005)
• If one member of a family or an organization agrees to participate, is it okay to ask that person questions about other family members? Can a husband, son, or daughter provide information about the mental health (e.g., depression) or substance abuse (e.g., alcoholism, heroin) of the mother without the researchers first asking for the mother’s consent? Can one employee provide detailed information about the behavior and attitudes of other specific employees (from whom consent was not sought)? If an IRB requires that permission be sought from all members of an organization, would the research become extremely difficult or impossible to conduct? (E.g., see Borgatti & Molina, 2003).
 
Because of innumerable gray areas such as these, researchers must select between imperfect options. Whenever researchers collect data directly from human subjects, it is thus possible to raise critical questions about the ethical choices they made.

FINDING IMPERFECTIONS IN RESEARCHERS’ ETHICS

To critique the ethics of a journal article, I would recommend searching for authors’ admissions and omissions—that is, focus on what researchers do say and what they do not say about the morality of their methodologies.
Let’s revisit Sun et al.’s (2003) article on binge drinking. Recall that the authors distributed paper-and-pencil surveys to more than 1,000 undergraduates at a Southwest university. The only mention of research ethics appears in the authors’ discussion of sampling, and can be cited in full.
 
We targeted a sample size of approximately 1,200 students. . .. Assuming that not all instructors would respond or agree to have their classes participate, we selected 120 classes at random to obtain the instructor’s permission. Forty classrooms (about 1,200 students total) eventually participated in the study. . .. The return rate was high because the survey was conducted in the classroom. A total of 1,143 surveys were collected, and 1,105 students were included in the sample after incomplete surveys were removed. (Sun et al., 2003, p. 19; underline added)
 
Obviously, it would be inappropriate for the researchers to simply show up unannounced at an instructor’s classroom and begin to pass out questionnaires without asking permission first. So, the authors behaved ethically by asking for instructors’ permission beforehand. And, we can infer from the mention of incomplete surveys that students could choose not to answer certain questions; respondents were not forced to answer each and every item before submitting their questionnaires.
These practices seem ethically sound, but Sun et al. (2003) left some significant issues out of their discussion. For example, the authors do not mention any efforts they may have made to solicit permission from students and not just the instructors.
Keep in mind that the researchers’ questionnaire asked incredibly personal questions about drinking habits, legal and illegal drug use, date rape, suicidal thoughts, and family history of drug use, among other issues. It is unlikely, but possible, that a student’s responses could fall into the wrong hands—for example, if a completed questionnaire was intercepted by a fellow student or given to campus police. A student’s reputation could be harmed, or he or she could be put in legal jeopardy.
Were students told that their participation was voluntary and that failure to participate would in no way effect their grade in the course? Were students told that their personal information would be kept confidential or anonymous? Did students sign a document indicating that they understood that their participation was voluntary and that their information would remain private? What steps did the researchers take to keep respondents’ data from falling into the wrong hands?
It is likely that the authors cautiously addressed these matters. Or perhaps not—as readers we can’t know for sure.
We do know that the authors were careful about not providing any personally identifying information in their article. No single student was mentioned by name in the article; it is impossible to use the statistics they report to figure out how any particular individual answered any particular item on the questionnaire. The authors protected respondents’ identities by not stating which specific courses were included in their sample and by withholding the specific name of the university where the data was collected. Thus, the authors’ ethics far surpass the sort of snooping and gossiping that frequently occurs in everyday life. Nevertheless, it is possible that the researchers could have been more careful about collecting and storing data in an ethical fashion.
Now let’s revisit Simpson et al.’s (2011) article on power and social networks, which we’ve discussed before. Like Sun et al. (2003), these authors collected data from students, but they used an experimental design
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 rather than a straightforward survey. One group of students was told to remember a specific occasion when they had power over another person or persons; another group of students was told to remember a time when they were in a low-power position. Then students were given one minute to memorize a set of hypothetical connections—for example, “Mike influences Bob; Doug influences Steve” and so on. In short, the researchers were examining whether being “primed for power” improved students’ ability to remember network connections.
Here is the authors’ discussion of ethics:
 
We conducted two experiments at a large public university with students from Introductory Sociology courses. Those who agreed to participate did so during regular class periods. . .. After all subjects in a given session had read and completed a consent form, a research assistant distributed a packet of materials containing condition-specific information and the dependent measure. (Simpson et al., 2011, p. 167; underline added)
 
The authors explicitly state that they collected signed consent forms, so we can probably assume that students knew their participation was voluntary and that they could cease participation at any time. The authors do not state whether any efforts were taken to remove any implicit sense of coercion that students may have felt; for example, some students may “volunteer” in the (presumably false) belief that they must do so in order to maintain a good grade in class. Did students who elected to participate receive extra credit in return for their time and effort? And, if so, were alternative forms of extra credit made available for those students who chose not to participate? These are relatively minor ethical concerns, and they may have been addressed by the authors. As readers, we just don’t know because the authors don’t tell us—not even in a footnote.
For a final example, let’s look at two research projects at the same time: one study of a “boot camp” program for violent criminal offenders in Arkansas (Benda & Toombs, 2000) and one study of police officers in Philadelphia (Chappell & Piquero, 2004). In both cases, the researchers achieved a very high response rate—more than 99 percent of their potential respondents agreed to participate in each study. Only 5 out of 600 inmates, and 5 out of 504 officers, declined. Wow—impressive! How did the researchers achieve such high response rates?
In the case of Benda and Toombs (2000), participants were enrolled in a boot camp program that served as an alternative to prison. Inmates who successfully completed boot camp could avoid prison time. About halfway through the program, a staff psychologist (with the help of eight research assistants) administered a 150-item questionnaire to respondents.
In the case of Chappell and Piquero (2004), the researchers attended roll calls at all 23 Philadelphia police districts. Researchers arrived with a list of those officers who had been randomly selected for inclusion in the sample. The ranking officer in charge of roll call (e.g., a captain) assisted in the administering of the survey, which took approximately 15 minutes for officers to complete prior to beginning their shifts.
In each research project, the researchers were dealing with “captive” audiences—literally or figuratively—somewhat similar to students in a classroom. The high 99 percent response rates may be due to the fact that individuals in positions of power facilitated the survey. Thus, I think a critical thinker could raise some ethical questions: Was participation truly voluntary, or did respondents feel pressured by the staff psychologist or by the officer in charge? Were respondents informed that there would be no negative consequences for declining to participate? What steps, if any, did researchers take to shield respondents’ information from the eyes of organizational leaders at the boot camp and at the police departments? Were respondents told that these steps would be taken?
Benda and Toombs (2000) and Chappell and Piquero (2004) do not address these types of questions in detail. The authors are largely silent or vague about the nuances of informed consent, along with other ethical issues. This neglect gives the impression that ethics is unimportant or simple rather than a serious issue that involves difficult choices and moral gray areas.
My impression is that such neglect is common in journal articles. For example, J. K. Harris (2008) reviewed 50 articles that collected data from human subjects about their social networks. Only 18 percent of the articles mentioned (however briefly) the issue of informed consent.
Don’t simply accept my argument on faith, though. I recommend that you treat ethical dilemmas and the neglect of ethics as matters that you can examine for yourself whenever you read a journal article that analyzes data collected from human subjects. Try 
Exercise 8.1
, and see what you come up with.
CONCLUSION

Virtually everyone could be described as an informal researcher. In the course of our daily lives, we all tend to observe our companions, ask questions, and share personal information with others. Our behavior may be well-intentioned, as when we provide moral support to those going through a period of stress or heartache. On the other hand, people frequently seem to engage in snooping and gossip, seeking out and sharing personal information for the mere titillation it provides.
Researchers also collect highly sensitive information from people, and they share it with others via their publications. However, the purpose of these questions is not to engage in snooping and gossip but to develop better, generalizable understandings of social life. Researchers want to learn, with accuracy, what is going on in the world—and why. They want to develop and test theories and make positive contributions to the literature in their fields but not at the expense of their respondents’ well-being or reputations. Consequently, researchers usually engage in a number of ethically laudable practices that surpass those that occur in ordinary human inquiry.
Nevertheless, researchers are not perfect. They make mistakes. They encounter dilemmas with no easy resolution. In their rigorous pursuit of the truth, researchers often neglect to spell out in detail the ethical strategies they used and why they think their ethical choices were the right ones. As a result, even someone who is new to social science—someone with little or no training in research methods—can raise probing questions about virtually any article that examines data collected from human subjects.

EXERCISE 8.1

Read a journal article and look for mentions of ethical considerations.
Do you find these adequate? What potentially important issues were mentioned only briefly or not at all?
If the data was collected by surveying, interviewing, experimenting on, or observing participants, then how was informed consent achieved? Does it appear that participation was voluntary? Could there be any informal or implicit pressure to participate? What steps were taken to safeguard respondents’ information and identities?