Ethical Concepts for Research Involving People - image

Ethical Concepts for Research Involving People

WCS © Alissa Everett

 Watch this 30-minutes “Ethical Concepts for Research Involving People” to learn about these concepts around ethical research: obtaining consent, ways to protect participants, anonymity, confidentiality, and vulnerable people.

Check out the Resource Library to find documentation about the topics presented below.


Potential participants in social science research must be able to provide their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent before participating. It means that: ​​

  • Purpose, methods & intended use of research are explained to the participant
  • Risks & benefits discussed in a language that is understandable to participants
  • This should occur before research commences
  • Should ensure participants are not coerced into participation & that they are provided with sufficient information to make informed and independent decisions about whether to participate

People can withdraw consent at any time during the research. There may be cases when consent should be sought multiple times throughout the research project. For example, if more than one method is used or when disseminating results, especially if there are intellectual property rights or traditional ecological knowledge considerations.


Confidentiality is “the state of keeping or being kept secret” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2019). It means that identifiable or personal data is collected (e.g., name, email address, postal address, phone number, health conditions) but is not shared. Confidentiality may specifically be requested by the respondent.

Anonymous means “not identified by the name,” and anonymity refers to “the condition of being anonymous” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2019). It means that no identifiable information is collected. Anonymity extends beyond names and addresses to photographs, voice recordings, GPS data, etc. it can be applied if requested if there is a risk to a participant by collecting identifiable information
                                           (e.g., studies of illegal behaviors).


Vulnerable Groups

Vulnerable populations include people with limited or compromised autonomy. When doing research with/about vulnerable groups, it is important to think about accommodations that might be needed to protect them.

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