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  • Understand why ethical standards exist
  • Demonstrate awareness of the American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics
  • Define value neutrality

Sociologists conduct studies to shed light on human behaviors. Knowledge is a powerful tool that can be used toward positive change. And while a sociologist’s goal is often simply to uncover knowledge rather than to spur action, many people use sociological studies to help improve people’s lives. In that sense, conducting a sociological study comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. Like any researchers, sociologists must consider their ethical obligation to avoid harming subjects or groups while conducting their research.

The American Sociological Association, or ASA, is the major professional organization of sociologists in North America. The ASA is a great resource for students of sociology as well. The ASA maintains a code of ethics    —formal guidelines for conducting sociological research—consisting of principles and ethical standards to be used in the discipline. It also describes procedures for filing, investigating, and resolving complaints of unethical conduct.

Practicing sociologists and sociology students have a lot to consider. Some of the guidelines state that researchers must try to be skillful and fair-minded in their work, especially as it relates to their human subjects. Researchers must obtain participants’ informed consent and inform subjects of the responsibilities and risks of research before they agree to partake. During a study, sociologists must ensure the safety of participants and immediately stop work if a subject becomes potentially endangered on any level.

Researchers are required to protect the privacy of research participants whenever possible. Even if pressured by authorities, such as police or courts, researchers are not ethically allowed to release confidential information. Researchers must make results available to other sociologists, must make public all sources of financial support, and must not accept funding from any organization that might cause a conflict of interest or seek to influence the research results for its own purposes. The ASA’s ethical considerations shape not only the study but also the publication of results.

Pioneer German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920) identified another crucial ethical concern. Weber understood that personal values could distort the framework for disclosing study results. While he accepted that some aspects of research design might be influenced by personal values, he declared it was entirely inappropriate to allow personal values to shape the interpretation of the responses. Sociologists, he stated, must establish value neutrality    , a practice of remaining impartial, without bias or judgment, during the course of a study and in publishing results (1949). Sociologists are obligated to disclose research findings without omitting or distorting significant data.

Is value neutrality possible? Many sociologists believe it is impossible to set aside personal values and retain complete objectivity. They caution readers, rather, to understand that sociological studies may, by necessity, contain a certain amount of value bias. It does not discredit the results but allows readers to view them as one form of truth rather than a singular fact. Some sociologists attempt to remain uncritical and as objective as possible when studying cultural institutions. Value neutrality does not mean having no opinions. It means striving to overcome personal biases, particularly subconscious biases, when analyzing data. It means avoiding skewing data in order to match a predetermined outcome that aligns with a particular agenda, such as a political or moral point of view. Investigators are ethically obligated to report results, even when they contradict personal views, predicted outcomes, or widely accepted beliefs.

Summary

Sociologists and sociology students must take ethical responsibility for any study they conduct. They must first and foremost guarantee the safety of their participants. Whenever possible, they must ensure that participants have been fully informed before consenting to be part of a study.

The ASA maintains ethical guidelines that sociologists must take into account as they conduct research. The guidelines address conducting studies, properly using existing sources, accepting funding, and publishing results.

Sociologists must try to maintain value neutrality. They must gather and analyze data objectively and set aside their personal preferences, beliefs, and opinions. They must report findings accurately, even if they contradict personal convictions.

Short answer

Why do you think the ASA crafted such a detailed set of ethical principles? What type of study could put human participants at risk? Think of some examples of studies that might be harmful. Do you think that, in the name of sociology, some researchers might be tempted to cross boundaries that threaten human rights? Why?

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Would you willingly participate in a sociological study that could potentially put your health and safety at risk, but had the potential to help thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people? For example, would you participate in a study of a new drug that could cure diabetes or cancer, even if it meant great inconvenience and physical discomfort for you or possible permanent damage?

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Further research

Founded in 1905, the ASA is a nonprofit organization located in Washington, DC, with a membership of 14,000 researchers, faculty members, students, and practitioners of sociology. Its mission is “to articulate policy and implement programs likely to have the broadest possible impact for sociology now and in the future.” Learn more about this organization at (External Link) .

References

Code of Ethics. 1999. American Sociological Association. Retrieved July 1, 2011 ( (External Link) ).

Rossi, Peter H. 1987. “No Good Applied Social Research Goes Unpunished.” Society 25(1):73–79.

Weber, Max. 1949. Methodology of the Social Sciences . Translated by H. Shils and E. Finch. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Questions & Answers

pls what's today's discussion all about?
Ojewande Reply
every one can start any relevant topic on sociology... bcz every question is imp about society
Ritu
what's is difference between premonition and foreknowledge
Ritu Reply
hello
suraj
g
Aimal
?
Ritu
difference between prescience and premonition is that prescience is knowledge of events before they take place; foresight; foreknowledge while premonition is a clairvoyant or clairaudient experience, such as a dream, which resonates with so
Aimal
hi
APARNA
in short foreknowledge is the knowledge of something before it's happened .and premonition a knowledgeof something is going to happen specially unpleasant
Ritu
..
Ritu
Who is the father of modern sociology
Shah Reply
who is the fat60f modern sociology
Shah Reply
Who is the father of sociology
Shah
august compte is called a father of sociology
Ritu
what can one become after studying sociology in Nigeria
Chisom Reply
What is the Socialization is culturally specific, but this does not mean certain cultures talking about?
Sammi Reply
yes
Kenneth
v
Kenneth
what is serfdom by Karl Marx
Ritu Reply
the condition of a tenant farmer bound to a hereditary plot of land and to the will of a landlord. it is Another form of slavery.
APARNA
thanks
Ritu
ghati and legory is markx
Abid
we often listen that he does root learning or he understand the concepts still I don't know what is difference between those ....which symptom shows ...
Ritu Reply
I asked from many literate people but don't gave a satisfied answer
Ritu
i asked from many literate people but they don't gave satisfied answer
Ritu
.....
Ritu
watch Jordan Peterson lectures on learning, it can clarify your misunderstanding
Sourabh
about what
Rafiq
yea! tell about what?
Badar
difference between understanding and root learning ..Because both seem the same from outside
Ritu
I would recommend watching Jordan Peterson lectures on learning (available on YouTube), It may help.
Sourabh
all right thanks
Ritu
learning and understanding are two sides of one coin.
Rafiq
all right
Abid
inequality and social fractionalization how differenciated?
Siam Reply
fractionalization is reality it's positive .without social fractionalization social system will be destroy ... it is compulsory and inequality is a negative approach .both are different
Ritu
if there is negation of negation of everything so what is negation. of primitive communism stage
Ritu Reply
?
Ritu
hermits,vagrants and alcoholics are examples of
tajown Reply
These are examples of social deviants because their ways of life violate social norms.
Mary
how to convert in hindi
bb Reply
society is a major cause of alienation .not individual ..why?
Ritu Reply
what is Upward mobility
Ritu
upward mobility is movement from lower status to higher status in hierarchy
SHIVAM
what is difference between Candidate Socialization and Adult Socialization
Ritu
what is the difference between general test and standardized test
NIRUPAM
one member can't do anything . so society is a major cause of alienation
NIRUPAM
but alienation is psychological state of individuals ....
Ritu
hegal says that Alienati is a social psychological condition that dissuades a person from his social existence.
Ritu
standardized test is scientific and general test is mere subjective or not scientific
Ritu
accha ..thank u ...Ritu
NIRUPAM
what are the effects of covid 19 on culture in our society
SAMUEL Reply
Here in America, where quarantine is being lifted slowly throughout the country, cases are beginning to rise again due to people laxing on wearing masks and continuing to practice social distancing. I believe this is causing anomie.
Mary
ghati
Abid
Truth, Abid 👍🏽
Mary
Love you
Abid
When it is a matter of culture, people are paying more attention to culture. Somewhere the positive effect of this quarantine is also happening.
Ritu
it a reality of a men before quarantine everybody was busy in their particular works like youth was busy in study family's was busy in earning money but naw I think people are realizing that there are more thing like a feeling of caring not just for own self but for a country in short nationalism .
Ritu
we r also going towards are culture we r giving more time towards culture .as I watch people are giving time on cultural food whether it is dance,dressup ,kahin na kahin this time making us psychologically and imotionally strong towards are feeling for nation 🙏. .
Ritu
this is best opportunity for making us still better then we was..we all should make the best use of such opportunity for improving our internal skill to better our self
Ritu
Describe an iron cage that leads to a false consciousness.
Mary Reply
Pakistan Govt is an iron cage that leads to false conscience
Abid
Please explain to me why you feel this way about the Pakistan Govt. I am from the Midwest in America.
Mary
for this you you may read the policies that makes by Pakistan govt for Pakistan
Ritu
@Ritu Verma : Improve English
Milan
This is the way to Improve English.. we have to appreciate the person who want to improve this international language.
Safed
I feel blind faith is an iron cage, that leads to false consciousness. For eg. There are certain rituals in relegion, which doesn't help anybody, also can harm people/animals but those who have blind faith in relegion, they have the consciousness of doing very meaningful.
Milan
@Safed, pointing out mistakes, inspires you to improve. that was my intention.
Milan
yes sir i respect your point I will never take it the other way i respect your point .. thank you ..The people who tell me my mistakes, they help me get success more quickly.
Ritu
always I welcome people who does ..you r ryt sir
Ritu
Is sociology different from common sense ? How ?
NIRUPAM
yaa is a different from practical intelligence ...bcz it's a pure science Sociologist does not do his knowledge in practical area.
Ritu
A sociologist, for example, does not determine social policies in the same way that a physicist does not build bridges.
Ritu
The job of a sociologist is to understand the facts as they are. Sociologist tells the relevant knowledge.
Ritu
It is the work of administrators, leaders and repressors to give practical shape
Ritu
It is right ? thinking of sociologist are different from other common people . How ?
NIRUPAM
what you mean by common people .... clear it
Ritu
may be u r ryt its bcz a sociologist observe fact with Interdisciplinary approach
Ritu
you may should read hirarichy of science by August compte
Ritu
The subject matter and subject area of ​​a sociologist is very broad and dynamic.
Ritu
A sociologist has to study the entire society which includes Economics, Geography, Physical, Political, Astronomy, Math, History, Anthropology and much more.
Ritu
So we can say that a sociologist's thinking is slightly different from the common people
Ritu
naw u free to agree or disagree
Ritu
yes
Siam
i am student of economics,but i am interest in sociology
Siam
you may go ahead ... with this it gives knowledge that will very good for upsc or pcs and ias
Ritu
economics has a great effect on society and is a key factor in social stratification. To understand sociology better one has to have a basic knowledge of economics.
Abu
personally sociology is a key of all success .I. m doing graduation in politics still i will give entrance in sociology
Ritu
Sociology is not a single subject, it is combination of different subjects.
Abu
hmmm ryt
Ritu

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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