Issues of Research Ethics in a Questionnaire
At the time of administering a questionnaire, it is important for you as a scholar to adhere to certain standards of research ethics. Keep the following guidelines in mind. The first principle to keep in mind is that of informed consent. Participants should be informed before they take part. This implies that they are aware of the precise nature of activity they are being asked to take part in and the possible risks involved. They must be aware of this prior to their actual participation.
Make a note to provide an information sheet to your participants to prospective participants which contains the basic facts about your dissertation. The information sheet must be simply worded so that participants understand what they are being asked to do. Also use consent forms to get necessary signatures from your participants. These consent forms should be available with your university department. The information sheet should state who you are, the institute you are enrolled in and what you are doing. The information sheet further gives details of why the person is being invited to participate. The document should state that even if the participant initially agrees to take part but wan to withdraw at a later juncture, they are free to do so. Describe what is expected of them if they do agree to take part. Specify the degree of confidentiality and anonymity which you will be able to provide.
Clearly state how the provided information will be used, stored and managed. Do not pressurize prospective participants to participate. Also do not offer incentives for participation since they can prejudice the individual. Certainly an incentive should not be such that it entices somebody who is unwilling to participate. It is important to take individual consent, not just the consent of parents and head of departments. The individual in question should be able to provide his or her consent.
Even in the event a participant signs a consent form, signalling willingness to respond to your questionnaire, even then they must know they are free to withdraw without providing a reason. Even after participation, an individual is within their rights to request removal of their data from the study. As researcher, it is your responsibility to not cause any kind of harm. Occasionally, the nature of data provided is very sensitive, hence the data provider may wish to remain anonymous. If a participant requests anonymity, you must do everything possible to ensure that no indicator of their identity is provided, for instance job title, duration of service, gender et al. In some cases, participants may want accreditation for the data they have provided, this should be provided to them.
You must also inform your participants, what you intend to do with the information they have provided and about the level of confidentiality you can maintain. If you are conducting a questionnaire of vulnerable groups, be particularly cautious. Do remember, that as a scholar, you have certain ethical responsibilities. Even when administering a questionnaire which involves people, you are required to follow certain ethical norms.