In general, ethics means speaking or doing what is right, treating people fairly and not hurting anyone. In research, ethics means a set of principles that embody or exemplify what is good or right or allow us to identify what is bad or wrong. This set of principles are followed to ensure research integrity, protect participants and researchers, minimize harm, and assure trust among many others. Ethics in research must consider what constitutes socially responsible research. It should uphold the ethical and moral values of society.

Underpinned by ethically conducted research, writing the research in the form of an article should include a discussion of all the ethical considerations. Write all the ethical norms that you followed or adhered to before, during and after interviews in the field and all stages of the research.

Ethical considerations, as a part of an article, are usually written as a part of the methodology section. You should write on ethics approval from Research Ethics Boards (REBs) if any, and adherence to principles of informed consent, confidentiality, beneficence, non-maleficence while conducting the research.

Informed consent is the process through which a researcher obtains, as well as maintains, the permission of a person or a person’s authorized representative to participate in a research study. You should write that you have informed the participants about the research objectives and participants of your research have voluntarily have given their consent before participating in your research.  

Confidentiality and anonymity are two important ethical practices to protect the privacy of individuals and the information provided by them. Using pseudonyms of participants is a way of maintaining confidentiality. The personal information may be modified to conceal the identity of the participants.

Beneficence means promoting the well-being of the individuals and society at large. The principle of non-maleficence is to ensure that you do not harm participants as a result of their participation in your research. Discuss briefly how you maintained these ethical considerations when you conducted the research.

Besides writing the section on ethical considerations, you should also ensure an ethical writing practice. You should not fabricate the data. You should always present the actual data while writing. Writing fabricated data is serious malpractice. Your data may become another researcher’s basis of theory advancement on people’s way of life, social construction, economic empowerment, people’s psychiatric treatment and even clinical treatment. It is your responsibility to report the actual data and not corrupt the scientific advancement of the subject.

Lastly, plagiarism means writing or copying another person’s ideas, methods, or text without citing properly. Cite the ideas and text whenever you use someone’s ideas and methods. Citing the sources should be done using the reference style of the journal you are writing. Review articles tend to have more plagiarism percentage than the original research papers. Reference writing tools such as Mendeley and Zotero will help in citing the sources correctly.

The UGC has published a guidance document in 2020 to ensure good quality research with integrity and focus on publishing the outcomes in high-quality journals. Read the document to know the good practices of research and writing.

Photo Courtesy: Tejeswar Karkora

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