Research, however novel its discoveries, is only of any value if it is carried out honestly. We cannot trust the results of a research project if we suspect that the researchers have not acted with integrity. Although it might be easy enough to take short cuts or even to cheat, it really is not worth it. Not only will your research be discredited when you are found out, but you will suffer severe penalties and humiliation. It is a simple matter to follow the clear guidelines in citation that will prevent you being accused of passing off other people’s work as your own – called plagiarism. In fact, to refer to or quote other people’s work is seen as a virtue, and demonstrates that you have read widely about your subject and are knowledgeable about the most important people and their ideas. Working with human participants in your research always raises ethical issues about how you treat them. People should be treated with respect, which has many implications for exactly how you deal with them before, during and after the research. Educational and professional organizations who oversee research projects have strict ethical guidelines that must be followed. However, the issues can become quite complicated, with no clear-cut solutions. It is therefore important that you consult with others, especially advisers appointed for that purpose.
Even if you are not using human participants in your research, there is still the question of honesty in the way you collect, analyse and interpret data. By explaining exactly how you arrived at your conclusions you can avoid accusations of cover-ups or false reasoning. There are two aspects of ethical issues in research: 1 The individual values of the researcher relating to honesty and frankness and personal integrity. 2 The researcher’s treatment of other people involved in the research, relating to informed consent, confidentiality, anonymity and courtesy. Although the principles underpinning ethical practice are fairly straightforward and easy to understand, their application can be quite difficult in certain situations. Not all decisions can be clear-cut in the realm of human relations.