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Research Methods – Research Ethics

1. What is Research Ethics?

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In this lecture, we explore research ethics as a definitive field within the area of ethics more generally, which is concerned with how researchers, conductors, and funders conduct and manage research in-line with ethical principles, focusing in particular on: (i) describing ethics as being based around moral judgements, drawing on principles of moral philosophy; (ii) the four primary sources of research ethics guidance being funding bodies, learned societies, research centres, and universities; (iii) research ethics as it is in psychology, describing the four key principles of human research ethics from the British Psychological Society; (iv) the other side of research, focusing on the four key principles of best practice in an ethics review.


In this course, Professor John Oates explores the ever-evolving field of research ethics. In the first lecture, we think about both the function and origin of research ethics, contextualising its principles within the British Psychological Society’s ethics framework. In the second lecture, we delve into an area of particular importance in the field – the ethics of research with children. One of the primary discussion points within this topic is the idea of consent and what constitutes valid/informed consent. In the third lecture, we broaden the conversation around consent to ways in which we might ascertain it as researchers. Next, we tackle what happens when unexpected events arise in research, outlining examples as incidental findings, participant disclosure, and adverse events. This lecture also addresses one of the more difficult aspects of research – deciding when to break a confidentiality agreement. In the fifth and final lecture, we bring research ethics into the modern age by exploring both the facilitated opportunities and ethical dilemmas brought about by the three main types of internet-based research.


John Oates is emeritus professor of developmental psychology at the Open University. His special field of research is child development, specifically perinatal mental health and early child development. Professor Oates is the lead for the British Psychological Society code of human research ethics and has a position in Brussels working for the European Research Council reviewing research bids. Some of Professor Oates’ recent publications include ‘Social constructions of mental health among Romani in Ukraine’ (2021) and ‘Mothers’ perceptions of their infants’ (2019).

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APA style

Oates, J. (2021, November 01). Research Methods – Research Ethics - What is Research Ethics? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Oates, J. "Research Methods – Research Ethics – What is Research Ethics?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Sep 2022,

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