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Learning Objectives
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After studying Chapter 3, you should know and understand the following key points:

Ethical Issues to Consider Before Beginning Research

Prior to conducting any study, the research must be reviewed to determine if it meets ethical standards.


Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) review psychological research to protect the rights and welfare of human participants.

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) review research conducted with animals to ensure that animals are treated humanely.

The Risk/Benefit Ratio

A subjective evaluation of the risks and benefits of a research project is used to determine whether the research should be conducted.

Determining Risk

Potential risks in psychological research include risk of physical injury, social injury, and mental or emotional stress.

Risks must be evaluated in terms of potential participants' everyday activities, their physical and mental health, and capabilities.

Minimal Risk

A study is described as having "minimal risk" when the procedures or activities in the study are similar to those experienced by participants in their everyday life.

Dealing with Risk

Whether "at risk" or "at minimal risk," research participants must be protected. More safeguards are needed as risks become greater.

To protect participants from social risks, information they provide should be anonymous, or if that is not possible, the confidentiality of their information should be maintained.

Informed Consent

Researchers and participants enter into a social contract, often using an informed consent procedure.

Researchers are ethically obligated to describe the research procedures clearly, identify any potential risks that might influence individuals' willingness to participate, and answer any questions participants have about the research.

Research participants are ethically obligated to behave appropriately during the research by not lying, cheating, or engaging in other fraudulent behavior.


Potential research participants must be made aware of all aspects of the study that may influence their willingness to participate.

Research participants must be allowed to withdraw their consent at any time without penalties.

Individuals must not be pressured to participate in research.

Informed consent must be obtained from legal guardians for individuals unable to provide consent (e.g., children, mentally impaired individuals); assent to participate should be obtained from individuals unable to provide informed consent.

Researchers should consult with knowledgeable others, including an IRB, when deciding whether to dispense with informed consent, such as when research is conducted in public settings. These settings require special attention to protecting individuals' privacy.

Privacy refers to the rights of individuals to decide how information about them is to be communicated to others.

Deception in Psychological Research

Deception in psychological research occurs when researchers withhold information or intentionally misinform participants about the research. By its nature, deception violates the ethical principle of informed consent, yet it is considered a necessary research strategy in certain areas of psychology.


Deception is a necessary research strategy in some psychological research.

Deceiving individuals in order to get them to participate in the research is always unethical.

Researchers must carefully weigh the costs of deception against the potential benefits of the research when considering the use of deception.

Researchers are ethically obligated to explain to participants their use of deception as soon as feasible, preferably at the conclusion of the study.


Researchers are ethically obligated to seek ways to benefit participants even after the research is completed. One of the best ways to accomplish this goal is by providing participants with a thorough debriefing.


Debriefing benefits both participants and researchers.

Debriefing informs participants about the nature of the research, their role in the study, and educates them about the research process. The overriding goal of debriefing is to have individuals feel good about their participation.

Debriefing allows researchers to learn how participants viewed the procedures, allows potential insights into the nature of the research findings, and provides ideas for future research.

Research with Animals

Animals are used in research to gain knowledge that will benefit humans, for example, by helping to cure diseases.

Researchers are ethically obligated to acquire, care for, use, and dispose of animals in compliance with current federal, state, and local laws and regulations, and with professional standards.

The use of animals in research involves complex issues and is the subject of debate.

Reporting of Psychological Research

Investigators attempt to communicate their research findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and the APA Code of Ethics provides guidelines for this process.
Decisions about who should receive publication credit are based on the scholarly importance of the contribution.

Ethical reporting of research requires recognizing the work of others using proper citations and references; failure to do so may result in plagiarism.

Proper citation includes using quotation marks when material is taken directly from a source and citing secondary sources when an original source is not consulted.

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