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Research Methods in Politics 2 Power in Research, Ethics, Data Protection and Bias

Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2 1

Teaching and Learning Objectives






to understand unequal power relations between the researcher and those researched, and the scope for harm to recognise types of potential harm to understand the Nuremberg Code to understand ‘ research effects ’ to understand bias and reflexivity Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2 2

Unequal Power

        researchers exploit their resources ‘rape model’ of research agent provocateur physical harm financial harm social harm psychological harm ethical dilemmas Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2 3

Nuremberg Code (1947)

   Nazi war crimes Nuremberg trials Code established four, universal ethical principles for research: – voluntary, informed consent – benefit to society – protection from unnecessary harm – right of subject to end experiments Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2 4

Data Protection

   context: IT data storage; state and private sector data banks; personal liberty; IT transfer S 108, Treaty of Rome, 1957; EU Directive 95/46; Data Protection Act, 1998 eight ‘data protection principles’: all data must be: – collected lawfully – obtained for a lawful purpose – adequate, relevant, not excessive – accurate, up-to-date – not kept longer than necessary – processed in accordance with subject’s rights – kept safe from unauthorised access – not transferred outside EEA unless safeguards equal Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2 5



  Act gives exemptions for research implications for academic research: – data must be held securely – personal data should be held only where essential – identity of research subjects should be protected – personal data should not be transferred outside EEA without agreement of subject – potentially reusable data should be archived centrally Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2 6

‘Research effects’

     Hawthorne (Elton Mayo) Placebo John Henry Halo Peacock Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2 7

Researcher’s bias

     researcher is highly biased deep-seated values prejudices – for and against ‘ Know thyself’ is the maxim uniquely imperative to on the investigator of social institutions (Beatrice Webb) minimising bias requires reflexivity : intellectual self-awareness Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2 8





Questions for discussion or assignments

Identify the extent of your own prejudices using the proforma on the web-site. Try to identify their source. Are they derived from others (e.g. parents or friends), intellectual inquiry or experience? How have they changed over the years?

You have been asked to undertake a survey of electors to find out whether non-voters in general elections differ in their general characteristics from voters and whether they are serial abstainers. What ethical difficulties do you anticipate? How would you tackle them? What are your own starting prejudices?

In the course of your fieldwork, you discover a continuing case of child abuse. You have given an undertaking of confidentiality. What should you do?

Obtain a copy of your department’s code of research ethics. What criticisms would you make? How should it be improved? OR, if a code is still pending, write a draft.

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