Research ethics in the real world

Readings, links, tools and guidance

Welcome to the readings and guidance section of the companion website for Research ethics in the real world.

Click through the tabs on the left to find helpful links and extra reading for each chapter.

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On Indigenous matters (video)


Reading list for Indigenous research:

Decolonizing Methodologies (2012 – 2nd edn) by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, a Maori researcher from New Zealand. This foundational book shows how research was used as a tool of imperialism to help subjugate colonised peoples through, among other things, complete disregard for Indigenous knowledges and Indigenous peoples’ own research methods. It highlights the value of these knowledges and methods, and calls for research to be linked explicitly with social justice.

Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods (2008) by Shawn Wilson, an Opaskwayak Cree researcher from Canada who has also lived and worked with Indigenous peoples in Alaska and Australia, as well as spending time with Indigenous peoples in New Zealand, Morocco, and elsewhere. His book is based on his doctoral research and describes a paradigm shared by Indigenous researchers in Canada and Australia.

Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts (2009) by Margaret Kovach, a Plains Cree and Salteaux researcher from Canada. Her book covers epistemologies, methods, and ethics. It is a work of considerable scholarship that is also accessible and full of wisdom.

Indigenous Research Methodologies (2012) by Bagele Chilisa, a Professor at the University of Botswana. Her book gives an uncompromising and international account of some of the theories, epistemologies, ontologies and methods used by Indigenous researchers. While no book on this subject could be completely comprehensive, Chilisa makes a good job of showing the diversity, as well as some of the commonalities, of Indigenous methodology.

Indigenous Pathways into Social Research: Voices of a New Generation (2013) edited by Donna Mertens from the US, Fiona Cram from New Zealand, and Bagele Chilisa. They have contributions from Indigenous researchers from all around the world: Vanuatu, Mexico, Cameroon, Hawai’i, Alaska, Papua New Guinea, and many other countries. These are fascinating accounts, highlighting personal, political, and ethical challenges, and how they have been overcome. They also say a lot about Indigenous methodologies around the world.

Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Research Methodology (2013) by Maggie Walter, a trawlwoolway researcher from Tasmania, and Chris Andersen, a Métis researcher from Canada. This book demonstrates the pervasiveness of Euro-Western thought in the construction of statistical research, using national censuses for illustration. It offers a framework for Indigenous quantitative research, nayri kati or ‘good numbers’, which places an Indigenous standpoint at the centre. There is a short video online of Maggie Walter talking about Indigenous quantitative research.

Research for Indigenous Survival: Indigenous Research Methodologies in the Behavioral Sciences (2014) by Lori Lambert, a Mi’kmaq researcher from north-eastern Canada who has also worked with Indigenous peoples from Montana, US; northern Manitoba, Canada; and Queensland, Australia. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book to position Indigenous methods within a Euro-Western disciplinary category. Like other Canadian writers, such as Wilson and Kovach (above), Lambert includes the voices of people she has worked with alongside her own in her narrative.

Southern Theory (2009) by Australian academic Raewyn Connell (2009). This book is subtitled ‘The global dynamics of knowledge in social science’ and is essential reading for anyone engaging with social theory. During my MSc, I was taught social theory as the preserve of dead white European men, and I am sure this is still being taught in many Euro-Western universities today. Connell’s book gives the lie to this approach.

Research as Resistance: Revisiting Critical, Indigenous, and Anti-Oppressive Practices (2015 – 2nd edn) edited by Susan Strega and Leslie Brown from the University of Victoria in Western Canada. The chapters specifically on Indigenous research are by Margaret Kovach and Qwul’sih’yah’maht, an Indigenous Professor at the University of Victoria.

Research Justice: Methodologies for Social Change (2015) edited by Andrew Jolivétte, Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University. This wide-ranging book includes a chapter on Indigenous research by Nicole Blalock, a mixed-heritage scholar and artist whose work applies Native American Studies to education, and the transcript of a keynote speech from 2014 by Linda Tuhiwai Smith.

There are two free online courses in Euro-Western research ethics. They are both geared towards health researchers and so focus heavily on participant wellbeing. Both have been through peer review and other quality assurance processes, and both offer certificates to students who complete the course successfully with a score of 80% or more.

The first free online course is called Research Ethics Online Training and is adapted from an e-learning course and resource package designed and produced by the World Health Organisation. It contains 14 individual modules, each of which is likely to take 15-30 minutes to complete. There are also resources in the form of a glossary, a "resource library" (aka bibliography), some case studies, examples of ethics guidelines, videos on research ethics, and links to other ethics websites.

The second free online course is called Essential Elements of Ethics and is adapted from an ethics tool kit created to support researchers at Harvard University in America. This course contains 11 modules, although it doesn't specify how long they are likely to take to complete. There are also resources including a workbook and checklist of points to consider, and a discussion forum - although this is not very active.

Free research ethics modules with a wider perspective are offered by Duke University in America. These cover topics such as cultural awareness and humility, ethical photography, power and privilege, and working with children, and are delivered through videos with transcripts also available.

Books on Euro-Western ethical theories include:

The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (2013 – 2nd edn) edited by High LaFollette and Ingmar Persson.

Ethical Theory: An Anthology (2012 – 2nd edn) edited by Russ Shafer-Landau.

Applied Ethics and Social Problems (2008) by Tony Fitzpatrick.

The Research Ethics Application Database (TREAD) was originally set up by Martin Tolich at Otago University in New Zealand and is now hosted by The Global Health Network and the UK and Ireland Social Research Association. This database holds copies of successful ethics applications from around the world which you can search and use for inspiration and learning. The applications are anonymised, though the researcher(s) must be named. Researchers often submit accompanying documents, too, such as consent forms and participant information sheets, which can be very useful to look through for ideas.

The Research Ethics Guidebook for social scientists is another UK-hosted resource. Like TREAD, the Research Ethics Guidebook holds useful information about applying for formal ethical approval. However, it also covers other areas such as ethics in research design, conducting research, reporting, and dissemination. The Guidebook is ideal for reference at the start of a project, and also during research as unforeseen ethical dilemmas occur.

American Evaluation Association Guiding Principles for Evaluators

Online evaluation course including a module on ethics – course intended for health evaluators but would also be useful to other evaluators

The English language dominates research literature so it is useful to know where to look for research from countries where English doesn’t dominate. Of course, you may find articles in languages you can’t read, but Google Translate is much better than it used to be – not 100% accurate, but certainly enough to understand the gist of any article. Then if the information is really useful, you can look for a native speaker to check the translation. Here are some websites that index articles from countries and continents that may not be indexed by Google Scholar. Many of these are supported by the research, knowledge and development charity INASP through its Journals Online project. Most have an English option on their website and some, if not all, articles available in English. Much of the content is openly accessible.

African Journals Online

Bangladesh Journals Online

Central American Journals Online

Journals from Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal

Latindex (Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal – Spanish only)

Mongolia Journals Online

Nepal Journals Online

Scientific Electronic Library Online (Latin America, Spain, Portugal and South Africa)

Sri Lanka Journals Online

It is also worth checking the Directory of Open Access Journals.

There are resources on the ethics of open access on the website of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, and there is also a useful report by Jisc. The website of the Committee on Publication Ethics has resources addressing the ethics of academic publication more widely.