Social research, in many if not most of its forms, involves human participants. This is true both for those whom we ask to be the object of study as well as those who we ask to help us in our research as interviewers, coders, collaborators and even clerical, support personnel. Sociologists are required to think about a wide range of issues that are raised by research, in general, as well as the particular subject matter and method involved in any particular project. The concern with ethical issues should begin in the planning process and carry through the publication of research results and plans for the sharing of data years after the completion of the project.
Fortunately, ethical issues in research have been the subject of academic and practical discussion for decades, often in response to allegation of research beyond accepted standards. Unlike some other areas (e.g., teaching and practice), the volume of available materials is immense. Unfortunately, this does not suggest that all of the questions have been answered; that all of the boundaries have been clearly drawn. While we have general agreement that responsible research requires informed consent, ensures confidentiality, and is made available for inspection by others, these issues, particularly some forms of sociological research, become very complicated. Unlike biological or medical research, the contours of social research have received less attention and raise additional concerns. In recent years, there has been much attention to the teaching of research ethics, and in particular, the development of courses or programs to do so. However, as those who have taken the lead in this movements have argued, research ethics require continual educa-tion of apprentices and seasoned researchers. Further, we should be concerned with teaching research ethics to those not headed to research careers because we are all consumers of research (e.g., See Penslar 1995).
In the Code, ethical issues relevant to research have already been considered above. In this section, we focus on four issues which are more likely to be relevant to research that may not appear elsewhere. Many of these, ironically, take place before or after the research rather than in the course of it. For example, in this Section, we focus on issues that come up during the planning and implementation of research; what principles govern the how to maintain and share; when other activities in the course of work bring up issues and data suitable for research; and what the liens are between acknowledging the contributions of others and coercing their participation through inducements. In all of these areas, sociologists are required to understand the ethical implications of their research.