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Health and Social Research Methods Essay.

Health and Social Research Methods Essay.


Researchers can therefore be said to benefit those who have the most influence on the way in which data is analysed and those that have greatest access to the results of that analysis. In general these are not the people subjected to the research process and again the argument can be made that the research process itself disadvantages groups of people because of the power inherent in the position of ‘researcher’. This is a particularly thorny issue for youth and community workers who seek to work in ways that are anti-oppressive and who have a commitment to the challenging oppressive practices.Health and Social Research Methods Essay.


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What stance do we take when faced with a need to research, an inherent quality of which involves disadvantaging the very groups we seek to serve. Do we have the right to conduct research ‘on’ disadvantage groups in the name of knowledge especially when that knowledge is only needed for the purposes of academic qualifications? Ethically then CDA and all other forms of social research must be carried out in such a way that the potential for reconstructing oppressive practices and perpetuating the interests of the dominant and powerful, is constantly on the agenda.Health and Social Research Methods Essay.

Researchers therefore have a moral and ethical obligation to those involved in or affected by the research undertaken to the point that ‘being ethical limits the choices we can make in pursuit of the truth. Ethics say that whilst truth is good, respect for human dignity is better, even if in the extreme case, the respect of human nature leaves on ignorant of human nature’ (Cavan in Cohen et al, 2000:56). Ethics in social research is a subject of much debate not least concerning the need for guidelines. May identifies two approaches to the issue of guidelines, deontological and consequentialist.

The deontological approach, based on the work of Kant, says ‘ethical judgments in social research would – follow a set of principles which guide the conduct of the research itself. Research ethics takes on a universal form and is intended to be followed regardless of the place and circumstances’ (May, 2001:60). Consequentialist however argue that such guidelines would never cover all eventualities and that ethical considerations arise from particular instances. Decisions therefore need to be made in the context within which research is being conducted and with the consequences of research firmly in mind.Health and Social Research Methods Essay.

Both points of view are however problematical. Whilst consequentialists may be correct in assuming that guidelines can never cover all eventualities, their ‘leave it to the researcher’ approach leaves the way open for unscrupulous practice. But the fact that there is no one right or wrong way of determining ethical behaviour does not mean that ethical issues can be ignored. On the contrary the very multiplicity of ethical issues that may arise in research means that ethical considerations should be the basis on which most research decisions are made.

In general most ethical research debates concern informed consent, respect for privacy, confidentiality or anonymity, an awareness of the possibility of harm to the researched and the use of deceit or covert research. Informed consent advocates that participants in research should be fully informed of the work in which they are being asked to take part and that they should be given the option of saying no or withdrawing at any time. The background, purpose and method of research should be clearly explained together with an explanation of the possible uses to which results may be put.

Unfortunately the power relationships between researchers and researched can affect the quality of informed consent, since it assumes an equal relationship in which people feel able to say no. Cohen et al argue that informed consent perpetuates the one sided nature of research since ‘it may leave relatively privileged groups under-researched (since they will say no) and underprivileged groups over-researched (they have nothing to lose and ‘yes’ in hope)’ (Cohen et al, 2000:58).Health and Social Research Methods Essay.

There are also difficulties involved in obtaining the informed consent of parties other than the intended research group, as for example in the case of children, where the informed consent of parents is needed before they can be approached. Children can therefore be effectively silenced by the need for informed consent since adults have the power to say no on their behalf. This is therefore particularly problematic for those involved in the field of youth since much of their research will be carried out with young people for which parental consent will be necessary.

Respect for privacy raises issues concerning sensitive material and the balance needed in reporting private issues in the public domain. Anonymity appears fairly unproblematic on one level, but on closer inspection difficulties life in the extent to which a piece of research can maintain this. Small scale studies (such as those carried out by discourse analysts) have the potential to identify participants without naming names, and researchers need to be aware of this.

Confidentiality is another area in which great care is needed since child protection policies can specify clear instances in which confidentiality, and for that matter anonymity and privacy, could and should be breached. An awareness of the possible harm that taking part in research studies can do to participants needs to be considered at every level and honesty about the extent to which the researcher can control this is vital. Informed consent is often viewed as a ‘get out’ clause for some researchers (I am not one of them) who would argue that participants knew what they were getting into since consent

‘places some of the responsibility on the participant should anything go wrong in the research’ (Cohen et al, 2000:51). But the argument about possible harm becomes less clear when one considers the extent to which the researcher has control on the use to which his/her research is put. Funders may use the research for their own purposes irrespective of the researcher’s intent and responsibility to funders/sponsors of research involves another delicate balancing act in serving the interests of both parties.

The use of deceit and covert observations as a research method are generally assumed to be unethical although there is an acceptance that some forms of research, for example, those which may represent a risk to the researcher (i. e. undercover investigations of criminal behaviour) and those in which it is almost impossible to obtain information openly, can be seen as acceptable because the researcher has put themselves at risk. However, this aspect of ethical practice is more involved that is first thought especially for CDA research methods that need to research ‘naturally occurring’ language.Health and Social Research Methods Essay.

If our social world is created within the relationships between people then it stands to reason that interaction between the researcher and the researched will change the way people behave and any language used as research can only be viewed as that which occurs when participants know they are being observed. This will prevent the acquisition of ‘naturally occurring’ talk and therefore has the potential to invalidate the research. That said CDA also uses a wide range of text and talk to provide data for analysis.Health and Social Research Methods Essay.

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