Monday, November 29, 2010

Planning Ahead: Research Ethics

Via Dean Sharpe, Research Ethics Board Manager for the Social Sciences and Humanities Office of Research Ethics (University of Toronto), here are the links to a number of relevant and useful sources that will help you in writing your ethics review protocol (and proposal!):

- consent:

- data security standards:

- Encryption standards:

- guidelines on key informant interviews:

- guidelines on participant observation:

- guidelines on deception and debriefing:

- guidelines on teacher-researcher role-based conflicts of interest:

- McMaster guidelines regarding intent to cause harm to oneself or others:
For those of you who are interested in online research and some of the complications that can arise out of conducting research a) online and b) involving children, you're welcome to read about my own experiences navigating these issues (albeit not always successfully) while conducting my Masters thesis research several years ago. I wrote a paper about the experience in the now-defunt (or is it merely dormant) International Journal of Internet Research Ethics, with the permission of the SFU Office of Research Ethics, which you can download here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

UofT Upcoming Research Ethics Workshops

Posted upon request of the Office of Research Ethics. A great opportunity for those of you planning on doing research involving humans. I'm going to ask if he can come and speak to the class as well, though it may be a bit late notice for that. TBC!

*************Begin forwarded message***************
Research Ethics in the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Education
Workshops 2010-2011

The Office of Research Ethics is pleased to announce the following workshops to address all types of research involving human participants in the social sciences, humanities, and education:

Fall 2010:
Date Time
Social Sciences and Humanities Tuesday, November 23 2pm - 4pm
Social Sciences and Humanities Wednesday, November 24 10am - 12pm

Winter 2011:
Date Time
Social Sciences and Humanities Wednesday, February 23 10am - 12pm
Social Sciences and Humanities Tuesday, March 1 2pm - 4pm

Location: All workshops will be in the McMurrich Building, Rm. 107 (12 Queen’s Park Crescent W.)

Faculty members, graduate students, and staff are invited to attend. Workshops will include a presentation with opportunities for questions and discussion. Topics will include:

  • history and principles behind research ethics review
  • procedures under Tri-council policy statement: Ethical conduct for research involving humans
  • UT’s risk matrix for assessing participant vulnerability and research risk
  • free & informed consent, privacy & confidentiality, conflict of interest, inclusion/exclusion criteria
  • questions and discussion relating to specific projects and methods

Enrollment for each workshop is limited to 25 people. Light refreshments will be served.

Please register at:

The research ethics workshops are eligible for credit in the School of Graduate Studies Professional Skills (GPS) Program. To register, and for more information on GPS please visit:

For further information, please contact
I am also available to speak in research seminars, by invitation: please contact me if interested.

And one more thing...if we have time

Kids vs. Creative Professionals: Can you draw the internet? 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What if the data is public????

©2010 Bridges/Facebook
In lead up to next week's lecture and readings on online research, check out this recent article by Michael Zimmer entitled: ‘‘But the data is already public’’: on the ethics of research in Facebook, which appeared in a recent issue of the journal Ethics and Information Technology. It discusses some of the more challenging ethical dimensions of using "found" and "public" data in social science research, and we'll very likely talk about this example in class. Here's the abstract:
In 2008, a group of researchers publicly released profile data collected from the Facebook accounts of an entire cohort of college students from a US university. While good-faith attempts were made to hide the identity of the institution and protect the privacy of the data subjects, the source of the data was quickly identified, placing the privacy of the students at risk. Using this incident as a case study, this paper articulates a set of ethical concerns that must be addressed before embarking on future research in social networking sites, including the nature of consent, properly identifying and respecting expectations of privacy on social network sites, strategies for data anonymization prior to public release, and the relative expertise of institutional review boards when confronted with research projects based on data gleaned from social media.
You may also want to check out Facebook's own "User Research" program, which it runs in conjunction with all of the data they're already accessing through users' posts and usage of the site itself, as well as the academic-led Facebook Project.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Validity and Reliability

Throughout the readings, esp. in the Luker & Knight texts, as well as a couple of times during lecture, we've talked about validity and reliability - two key concepts in designing and evaluating research (designs, findings, conclusions, etc.). Here's a brief breakdown of some of the types that may come up in your own work for this course, as well as some very basic definitions (for a more thoughtful discussion, refer to Luker):

Extent to which a measure reflects a concept – reflecting neither more nor less than what was implied by the definition of the concept (i.e. your measures are valid to the extent that the chosen indicators reflect the concepts as defined).
o   Face Validity: An evaluation of an indicator that, upon inspection, appears to reflect the concept you wish to measure (weakest, not very useful). E.g. Operationalization of concepts is consistent with past literature.
o   Content Validity: To what extent are you develop a question(s) that properly flushes out the concept (does the measure properly reflect the dimension(s) implied by the concept).
o   Construct Validity: Uses multiple lines of evidence to determine your level of validity – gathering data from different sources to see if the same findings, same themes emerge. If they do, you have construct validity and can refer to your methodology as using multiple lines of evidence.

External Validity: The extent to which results may be extrapolated from a particular study to other groups in general.

Extent to which, on repeated measures, an indicator/measurement will produce similar readings. Are the findings replicable? Different types of reliability include:
o   Inter-Rater/Inter-Judge Reliability: Are researchers and respondents are interpreting questions the same way?
o   Test-Retest Reliability: Conducting the same test on a least 2 occasions and ensuring people understand the questions the same way on all occasions.