Research Methods

Research Methods
Research Ethics
 Marketplace of ideas--no scientific misconduct
 Research fraud = falsification of data
 Plagiarism = theft of words and ideas
 Personal and professional ethics regarding research
 Dilemma – right to conduct research v. rights of
individual human subjects
Notable Research Designs with Ethical Issues
 Obedience to Authority, 1974 (1963, 1965), Stanley
What about studies that inflict emotional distress?
 Stanford Prison Experiment, 1972 (1971), Philip Zimbardo
What is the limit of voluntary participation?
 Police brutality, 1971 (1967), Albert Reiss
Is it ethical for a researcher to standby while a ‘subject’ is being abused
in a non-experimental setting?
 Student Unrest on College Campuses, 1969, American
Council on Education
What can be asked of a respondent? What implications?
The experimenter (V)
orders the subject (L) to
give what the subject
believes are painful
electric shocks to another
subject (S), who is actually
an actor.
The subjects believed that
for each wrong answer,
the learner was receiving
actual shocks, but in
reality there were no
After the confederate (S)
was separated from the
subject, the confederate
set up a tape recorder
integrated with the
electro-shock generator,
which played pre-recorded
sounds for each shock
The Milgram Experiment
The Milgram
Experiment in action.
At this point, many
people indicated their
desire to stop the
experiment and check
on the learner. Some test
subjects paused at 135
volts and began to
question the purpose of
the experiment.
Most continued after
being assured that they
would not be held
responsible. A few
subjects began to laugh
nervously or exhibit
other signs of extreme
stress once they heard
the screams of pain
coming from the
Milgram Experiment
The Milgram
Experiment raised
questions about the
ethics of scientific
experimentation because
of the extreme emotional
stress suffered by the
Yet, not every
participant experienced
the life-changing
experience reported by
some. By modern
standards, participants
were not fully debriefed,
and exit interviews
indicated many
participants never fully
understood the
experiment's nature.
The Stanford prison
experiment was
ostensibly a
psychological study of
human responses to
captivity and its
behavioral effects on
both authorities and
inmates in prison.
It was conducted in 1971
by a team of researchers
led by Philip Zimbardo
of Stanford University.
volunteers played the
roles of both guards and
prisoners living in a
mock prison in the
basement of the
Stanford psychology
Stanford Prison Experiments
The experiment quickly
grew out of hand.
Prisoners suffered — and
accepted — sadistic and
humiliating treatment
from the guards, and, by
experiment's end, many
showed severe
emotional disturbances.
After a relatively
uneventful first day, a
riot broke out on the
second day. The guards
volunteered to work
extra hours and worked
together to break the
prisoner revolt,
attacking the prisoners
with fire extinguishers
without supervision
from the research staff.
Prisoner 417
Because it was a field
experiment, it was
impossible to keep
traditional scientific
Zimbardo was not
merely a neutral
observer, but influenced
the direction of the
experiment as its
Conclusions and
observations drawn by
the experimenters were
largely subjective and
anecdotal, and the
experiment would be
difficult for other
researchers to
“Guard” and “Prisoner” encounter
after experiment.
Additionally, it was
criticized on the basis of
ecological validity.
Many of the conditions
imposed in the
experiment were
arbitrary and may not
have correlated with
actual prison conditions,
including blindfolding
incoming "prisoners",
not allowing them to
wear underwear, not
allowing them to look
out of windows and not
allowing them to use
their names.
The Stanford Experiment
 The ACE study of student unrest grew out of a manifesto
published in Science magazine by a group of fellows from
the Stanford Center for the Advanced Study of Behavioral
Sciences. The manifesto places the study it proposes in
the context of opposition to student rebellions:
“It is clear from the increasing number and intensity of
demonstrations on campuses in the United States and abroad that
we do not understand how best to deal with these crises when they
occur and certainly do not have the knowledge to prevent them from
occurring in the first place…. In using words like deal with and
prevent…there is an implicit assumption that violent or destructive
behavior, in itself, is undesirable and self-defeating. We believe this
to be true.”
 The study consists of many surveys, elaborately computerized
(in part, it would appear, by a subsidiary of Litton Industries).
Among them is an in-depth examination of 22 campuses,
including Columbia, North Carolina, American,
Northwestern, and the University of California at Irvine.
 The questionnaire—administered to selected radical and black
student leaders as well as to random students, faculty, and
administrators—asks potentially incriminating questions
about participation in disruption and drug use.
 It also asks about "outsiders" and their roles in
demonstrations, about political attitudes of students and their
parents, about professors who have been particularly
influential. Researchers were also asked to compile a scenario
of the biggest recent protest, including the main actors,
photographs, tapes, statements, etc.
 How reliable is the data collected, considering the
 What is the responsibility of the scientist towards the
subject’s confidentiality?
 Is objectivity compromised by the ‘goal’ of the study
to understand and reduce violent rebellion on
Research Ethics -- Standards
 Informed Consent
 Competence, Voluntarism, Information, Comprehension
 Privacy Protection
 Sensitive information, Settings, Dissemination
 Methods of Protection: Anonymity, Confidentiality
 Codes of Ethics: APSA, AAPOR, pp.399-402
 Institutional Review Board:
 34. The methodology of political science includes
procedures which involve human subjects: surveys
and interviews, observation of public behavior,
experiments, physiological testing, and examination
of documents. Possible risk to human subjects is
something that political scientists should take into
account. Under certain conditions, political scientists
are also legally required to assess the risks to human

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