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People Studying People: Research Ethics in Society

University of Leicester via FutureLearn


What is ethical research?

If we consider data collection and its reporting to make up research, then we will all have been exposed to being participants in some form of social research. Data collection from people in society is now part of everyday life. Ethical research demands that respect is afforded to the rights and dignity of human participants. Studies need to be designed to be worthwhile and any potential harm anticipated and minimised. Ethical research requires thinking carefully about what constitutes participation in research and the responsibilities of researchers not only to participants, but also to all those affected by a study.

Use an ethical appraisal framework to develop and assess research proposals

On this free online course you will be supported in reflecting on the value of ethical thinking for research and discover an ethical appraisal framework that you can apply to empirical research projects in social science, arts, education and the humanities. The course is designed to offer insights for both researchers and potential participants.

What you will study

The course starts by exploring what ethics is and why it is important to research through a consideration of examples of studies which can be challenged in terms of their ethicality. We will use an ethical appraisal framework to illustrate ways of thinking about the ethical implications of designing a study and recruiting participants, taking into consideration different stakeholder perspectives. We will reflect on how it is important to show integrity as a researcher whilst conducting and reporting studies. This will include thinking about what might go wrong in a study and how these issues might be anticipated.

Get guidance on ethical social science research from the University of Leicester

This course has been developed by members of the University of Leicester College of Social Science, Arts and Humanities and is supported by an extensive set of resources for researchers on a website entitled Doing Ethical Research.

This course is designed for current or aspiring researchers in Social Science, Arts or the Humanities. You may have a research project in mind or one that is underway. It would also suit those with broader interests in evaluating research involving human participants, including those as potential participants.


  • Becoming an ethical researcher
    • Welcome to the course
    • Controversial research
    • The role of theory in ethical decision-making
    • Ethical decision-making throughout research
    • Stop to think: What makes an ethical researcher?
  • Making sure research is respectful
    • A spotlight on responsibilities for vulnerable groups
    • Different stakeholders in research
    • The effect of researcher positionality
    • Stop to think: What makes a respectful researcher?
  • Meeting our duties as researchers
    • Ethical approaches to inviting participants
    • Meeting researcher obligations
    • Ethicality when reporting and disseminating
    • Stop to think: What makes a virtuous researcher?

Taught by

Jim Askham and Alison Fox


4.6 rating at FutureLearn based on 12 ratings

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