11.4 Ethical Research

In keeping with federal law and local policy, universities and other research organizations maintain standards for ethical research. These standards include general principles for the responsible conducting of research, and specific rules for the protection of participants in research projects.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

According to Oklahoma State University, responsible conduct of research requires attention to topics such as “proper citation of other work, plagiarism, research misconduct, intellectual property and copyright, falsification and unwarranted editing of data, conflict of interest, authorship on manuscripts, and mentor-mentee relationships”
(OSU, n.d.).  While RCR is discussed mainly in the context of academic work, these principles apply to educational technologists in all of the roles they may fill, as students, researchers, and practitioners.

Researchers must take care to conduct their research properly, as defined by the standards of their chosen method, and present their findings accurately. They must also treat research participants with respect throughout the process, including data collection, analysis, and reporting of findings.

Another component of RCR is sharing credit appropriately for any publications that result from the research. Generally, everyone who contributes substantially to the project has earned the right to be listed as an author. Conversely, author credit is not “given” to those who do not make substantial contributions. The American Psychological Association provides guidelines for authorship that, although written primarily for a graduate student audience, are helpful for all researchers and practitioners in the field of educational technology. These guidelines are available at http://www.apa.org/science/leadership/students/authorship-paper.pdf.

Protection of Human Participants

Educational technologists frequently perform research with human participants. This is true of academic research and also in some workplace situations, such as usability testing for new educational software or products. Because of past abuses of human subjects, there are federal laws in place to ensure protection of research participants, and universities have Institutional Review Boards (IRB) in place to ensure that these laws are followed. Research done outside of a university setting (e.g., software usability testing) is not subject to IRB oversight, but protection of human volunteers is still important for ethical practice in the field.

University researchers at all levels (faculty, graduate students, etc.) are required to complete training prior to conducting any research with human participants. Information about the IRB process at Oklahoma State University can be found at http://irb.okstate.edu/.


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Foundations of Educational Technology by Penny Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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