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Social Research: Issues and Debates

4. Ethics and Constraints

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In this lecture, we think about ethics and the constraints sociologists face when conducting research, focusing in particular on: (i) two important areas of debate in research ethics – whether it is ever permissible to not obtain informed consent from participants, and what ethical constraints apply when researching criminal groups; (ii) two perspectives on ethics – the deontological position that there are fixed rules regarding ethical conduct, and the consequentialist view that such evaluations should be based on the actual outcomes of research; (iii) the relationship between power and ethics; (iv) practical constraints in research, such as issues around funding, time, and resources.


In this course, Professor Tim May (University of Sheffield) explores several important issues in social research, and the debates which surround them. In the first lecture, we consider key perspectives on epistemology – is it possible for research to uncover objective truths about society, and, if so, how? In the second lecture, we look at the place of theory in research through two contrasting approaches – the hypothetico-deductive model and grounded theory. In the third lecture, we think about the role of values in research, examining Max Weber’s concept of value-free sociology and its critics. Next, we reflect upon ethics and the ways in which constraints of funding, time and resources influence the research process. In the fifth and final lecture, we explore some things to consider when presenting research, and ways in which researchers can make their presentations participatory and engaging.


Professor Tim May is a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield. He has a wide range of expertise relating to research methodologies, sociological theory, and the philosophy of social science. His recent publications include Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process (2021, co-authored with Beth Perry), Thinking Sociologically (2019, co-authored with Zygmunt Bauman), Reflexivity: The Essential Guide (2017, co-authored with Beth Perry).

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APA style

May, T. (2022, January 26). Social Research: Issues and Debates - Ethics and Constraints [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

May, T. "Social Research: Issues and Debates – Ethics and Constraints." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Jan 2022,

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