Reflection and the Ethical Learning Curve

Hi everyone! If you would like to see how you participation has helped in my research findings or you are generally interested in my project click here.

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Now it is time to “think, think, think”and reflect

The completion of my research project has allowed me to acquire important ethical research practices which are central to the effectiveness of social research. Throughout my project development and learning, I experienced the opportunity to apply ethical research concepts that ultimately shaped the successful completion of my task.

I was made aware that no matter how inordinate a project can be, if it is not controlled appropriately it can come undone. Therefore, socially responsible research design is important. Following the steps in O’Donnell’s (2011) blog How to make a simple Gantt Chart, I constructed this chart and a risk matrix to ensure that my time was used efficiently. O’Donnell (2011) implies that these processes engage to assessors that you have seriously thought about your research and its overall completion. These instruments proved to be beneficial. I constantly referred to the charts to make sure I was on par and they display my perseverance as a socially liable researcher.

Socially responsible research emphasises the need that individuals involved in research must be sufficiently communicated to, and actively engaged. The Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) (2010) states that a communication plan guides interaction activities including communicating to a target audience and assessing objectives and outcomes. This made me recognise that it is socially important to create a communication strategy and follow tactics to understand and reach audiences and project aims. I alerted participants of my findings by making my research publicly available online. I found my use of personal language to be highly effective as a strategy to seem more relevant when sharing messages about project progression and audience participation. Through utilising Facebook, Twitter and WordPress I could personally interact with participants, particularly millennials. I found posting messages at peak online periods also generated more participation. I believe this plan led to a successful outcome. I received over 90 respondents to my questionnaire, 6 of which openly participated in the focus group. Individuals interacted with my hashtags, links and blog according to its statistical analysis. It is a basic desire to want to know what you are involved in. Developing a communication plan allowed me to voice a clear project message, and represent myself to participants as socially responsible.

Critical judgement was also discussed and its importance in ethical research. Resultantly, I used the CRAAP test in my background research to ensure the sources were Current, Relevant, Authentic, Accurate and Purposeful. Through a process of cross-checking and investigation this allowed me to eliminate sources that were impractical to support my investigation. Lupton (2016) allowed me to identify the risks of publication bias within academic work. This reflectively influenced my report, ensuring that my findings were balanced and not selective to the benefit of my paper.  Critical judgement allowed me to collate a well-rounded set of background resources to compliment my research. I felt the greatest limitation was the significant lack of differing conclusions on online health information. This conversely helped me identify holes and lay a foundation and aim of research.

I believe that respect and integrity need to be adhered to with any form of research. Social responsibility requires you to actively engage audiences in your research. To continue this involvement, one must maintain trust, by treating participants with respect (Pieper, 2014). The Lean Research Framework (2015) and its principles, Rigor, Respectful, Relevance and Right-size support that ethical research can only be successful if respect is prioritised. I prioritised my respect for participants by ensuring their involvement was not obligatory. I maintained respect through gaining ethically sound consent, detailed at the beginning of my survey questionnaire and focus group. By offering a clear informed consent process, assuring anonymity, I hoped I would represent individuals wish to feel comfortable to participate. Relevance was maintained by communicating my research progress to my stakeholders. This allowed participants to see their project contribution as well as allowing me to show my appreciation as a respectful researcher. This worked efficaciously, demonstrated by the responses I received in my methods. Individuals did not lose a willingness or interest due to the utilisation of respectful ethics.

Integrity is distinctly focused around truthfulness and honestly and is important to promote within other ethical concepts. Following the Duke University’s Guide to Writing Consent forms I ensured to inform participants of who I was, and what and why I was doing this project to maintain an elevated level of integrity. Integrity is also vital in critical judgement so that my research was committed to a academic, non-bias appropriateness. The positive nature of my research process would not have happened without maintaining integrity.

BCM212 allowed me to learn that ethical research is vital within any research project. I believe there were key practices that were constantly utilised throughout the duration of my project leading to its success. Conducting ethical research has become an important learning curve as a tertiary researcher that will help me in the future. This process has been a positive experience which I hope starts conversation and challenges the ways individuals utilise online health information in the future.

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