Ethical Issues and Best Practice Considerations for Internet Research

By Colvin, Jan; Lanigan, Jane | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Ethical Issues and Best Practice Considerations for Internet Research


Colvin, Jan, Lanigan, Jane, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


With rapidly increasing public use of the Internet and advances in Web technologies, family and consumer sciences researchers have the opportunity to conduct Internet-based research. However, online research raises critical ethical issues concerning human subjects that have an impact on research practices. This article provides a review of the literature on Internet research ethics and reviews the application of ethical principles for conducting online studies. Best practice considerations are offered to protect the confidentiality and rights of participants in Internet research and to ensure that the field remains viable for future research.

Internet-based research provides immense opportunity for family and consumer sciences (FCS) scholars. Given the widespread use of Internet communication tools, researchers have access to potential participants and to vast social and behavioral knowledge. According to the Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future (2004), approximately 75 % of Americans went online in 2003, representing an increase from 67% in 2000. Furthermore, Internet use has increased among all demographic groups, including women, ethnic populations, and families with modest incomes (Rainie & Packel, 2001) and throughout all geographic areas (Cooper & Victory, 2002).

Internet research is defined as the use of Internet technologies for online recruitment of subjects for survey research and the analysis of data gathered from Webbased communication forums such as chat rooms and discussion boards (Azar, 2000). Research via the Internet is attractive because of the ability to obtain large, heterogeneous, global samples, to target specific populations, and to access archival information and communication data (Birnbaum, 2004). In addition, Web pages provide a versatile format for data collection that is fast, low-cost, and efficient. Thus, the potential exists for increased use of the Internet as a research tool by family and consumer sciences (FCS) professionals.

The practice of Internet research raises critical ethical issues concerning human subjects and this has an impact on the technical and practical aspects of research design (Eysenbach & Till, 2001; King, 1996). Ethical practices in research are subject to Federal law as published by the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Office of Protection from Research Risk (Eysenbach & Till, 2001). However, no policies specific to Internet research have been issued to guide Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) of universities and research organizations in approving and overseeing research. Thus, researchers must consider the ethical challenges of Internet research and identify best practice considerations in planning, conducting, and reporting research. Keller and Lee (2003) stressed that future researchers can benefit from discussion of the ethical dilemmas and decisions of today's researchers.

Therefore, the purposes of this article are to review the literature on Internet research ethics and to review the application of ethical principles while conducting online studies. Internet research ethics involves traditional ethical principles-protection of human subjects and social responsibility-within the evolving Internet environment. The Association of Internet Researchers (AIR) (Ess, 2002) as well as researchers worldwide have entered the discourse (Bassett & O'Riordan, 2002; Capurro & Pingel, 2002; Elgesem, 2002; Eysenbach & Till, 2001; Walther, 2002).

LITERATURE ON INTERNET RESEARCH ETHICS

The basic tenets for protecting human subjects involved in research are codified by two professional organizations (American Psychological Association (APA), 2002; American Sociological Association (ASA), 1997). These principles include informed consent and protection from harm, including confidentiality and debriefing. In addition, social responsibility is an overarching ethical consideration; that is, research activities should contribute to the common good in a way that is inclusive, cognizant of cultural issues, and protective of the research field for future study (Keller & Lee, 2003). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ethical Issues and Best Practice Considerations for Internet Research
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.