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An examination of ethical issues pertaining to educational research

Author - Greg Gallagher

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The need to ensure that the practice of research within the social sciences is based on sound ethical principles is not open to debate. Such principles are essential in order to ensure that conclusions drawn from research are valid and that the integrity of the methodology used in arriving at these conclusions is beyond reproach. But what exactly are these principles, where did they originate from, who should safeguard them, and how can they be policed?

There is growing concern within the field of educational research that contemporary approaches to methodology subvert certain ethical principles and, as a result, bring the entire educational research discipline into disrepute. This paper attempts to analyse the origin and importance of ethics within the field of educational research. The ethical principles that we have come to expect of researchers are reviewed and commented on, drawing from the current literature and luminaries on this topic. Immanuel Kant’s contribution to this debate is reviewed in light of some of the contemporary approaches to research methodology that are now in vogue within the field of educational research.

This paper does not attempt to answer all the questions that arise within the topic discussed, nor does it attempt to resolve all the apparent inconsistencies that appear to be irreconcilable. The objective of this paper is to reflect on the main issues, as the author perceives them, and to draw conclusions as to how some of the more contemporary approaches to research methodology can coexist with the traditional methodologies while at the same time ensuring that their techniques reflect the sound ethical standards that will retain the integrity essential for their continued acceptance and intrinsic validity.


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