Almost every aspect of human life is guided by guidelines, rules, and regulations. That is why, from time immemorial, there have been set ethics and rules that serve as a guide and moderator in human activities.

Without these recognized ethics, everyone will approach issues in ways they deem appropriate. This applies to the research and research community.

Research guidelines provide information about accepted research ethics to the research community and the researchers. These guidelines provide ethics, advice, and guidance. They help researchers develop ethical discretion and also to prevent the researchers from committing scientific misconduct, and promote good scientific practice. 

We are going to discuss research ethics, what they mean, how they are adopted, how important they are, and how they affect research and research institutions.

What are Research Ethics?

Ethics are a set of rules, which can be broadly written and unwritten. They govern a human’s behavioral expectations and that of others.

While society broadly agrees on some ethical values such as murder is terrible and disallowed, a wide variation also exists on how we can interpret these set values in practice.

Now research ethics refers to the values and the norms an institution has put in place to help regulate scientific activities. It is a collection of scientific morals in the line of duty. This guideline specifies the traits or behaviors that are recognized by the research community based on the general ethics of science and society at large.

Research guidelines are binding on both the researcher and the institution. This is because there are responsibilities to be carried out by both the researcher and the institution to ensure that their research is reliable. However, it is important that the institutions are clear on the research ethics roles and responsibilities at every point. Part of the duties of the institution is to have good administrational management and funding that would allow researchers to comply with designed ethical guidelines and norms.

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The guidelines primarily cover research and other research-related activities, which include teaching, dissemination of research information, and also the management of institutions. Research ethical guidelines are also used as tools in the assessment of an individual case in the planning of research and even when reporting or publishing the outcomes and findings of that study.

The research ethics guideline covers the projects of students at all levels, and that of the doctoral research fellows. It is also the responsibility of the institution to provide relevant training regarding research ethics to the students and doctoral research Fellows. This is because the research norms and guidelines apply to all researches regardless of whether they are commissioned research, applied research, or basic research.

Research conducted by the public, or private institutions is also subjected to these guidelines and ethics. Consulting firms that perform research-related tasks, such as systematic acquisition and information processing about individuals, groups, and organizations, are also not excluded.

Read: Consent Letter: Writing Guide, Types, [+12 Consent Samples]

There are guidelines regulating research at different levels based on recognized norms for research ethics. We are going to look at these research norms below.

  • There are norms for good scientific practice. They relate to finding accuracy and relevant knowledge in research. These norms are Originality, trustworthiness, academic freedom, and openness.
  • There are norms for the research communities. They guide the relationship between the people that partake together in research. These norms are respect, accountability, confidentiality, integrity, impartiality, constructive criticism, informed and free consent, and human dignity.
  • There are norms that guide the researchers’ relationship with the rest of society. These norms are social responsibility, dissemination of research, and independence.

The first two groups listed above are internal ethical norms. They relate to regulating the research communities, while the other relates to the relationship that exists between the research and the outside world or the society. Many times, the lines between these norms get blurred.

Research ethics are the standard ethics set by the supervising institution or bodies to govern how scientific research and other types of research are conducted in various research institutions such as the universities, and also moderate how they are interpreted.

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Why is Research Ethics Important?

The aim of research ethics is to guide researchers to conduct their studies and report their findings without deception or intent to directly or indirectly cause harm to their subjects or any member of society, as the case may be.

Also, research ethics establish the validity of a researcher’s study or research. It establishes that the research is authentic and error/bias-free. This will give the researcher credibility within the institution and in the public.

Research ethics also ensure the safety of research or study subjects and the researcher. This is because it is a must that all researchers follow these guidelines.

Another importance of research ethics is that it shows that your research publications are not plagiarized, and your readers are not reading unverified data. This is achieved through the research manuscript. Your research findings must adhere to the set guidelines.

The last point to consider is that research ethics provide the researcher with a sense of responsibility. This makes it easy to find appropriate solutions in the case of any misconduct.

Read: Systematic Errors in Research: Definition, Examples

Examples of Unethical Research Practices

Here’s a list of unethical practices every researcher must avoid

1. Duplicate publication

It is unethical for a researcher to submit a research paper or publication that has two or more seminal journals which could be with or without acknowledgment of these other journals. This practice is known as duplicate submission or duplicate publication. 

Some authors practice duplication of publication so as to increase their numbers of submissions; however, it is unethical and it also amounts to the wasting of time of the publication resources and the journal reviewers why it also serves no benefits today to the scientific community and humanity at large.

You can only submit your research paper to just one journal.

2. Research data falsification

the falsification or fabrication of research data occurs when a researcher tries to manipulate the procedures used in conducting research or the important findings just to have the researcher’s desired result.


Recording non-existent data or falsifying a data recording is known as research fabrication.

Research data fabrication is common in the pharmaceutical industry. They do this fabrication 2 market a specific drug today to the general public without considering the drug’s side effects. This act is unethical and it is also a wastage of the limited resources available for research.

This can result in revoking the physician’s clinical license, the prosecution of the physician, and also create huge mistrust in the mind of the public.

3. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a huge offense in the research community. It is the practice of taking another person’s research or work or even idea and inculcating it in your own writing without giving them the dual credit. In some cases, just for recognition, the researcher can even use another person’s research as their own publication journal.

In other cases, the researcher may change the letters of someone else’s publication to their own words without referencing the original author. This is known as self-plagiarism. 

With technology, there are more tools to detect plagiarism. This means it is now very easy for journal editors to detect plagiarism.  Plagiarism may not be intentional sometimes, it may just happen accidentally. However, you can avoid it by referencing all the sources you used in writing your own scientific journal.

Ensure that all the authors whose work you have used are properly cited in your paper, regardless of if they’re from previous publications.

4. Authorship Conflict

ICMJE (The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) guidelines provided that anyone who has contributed to the conception, the designing of research data, contributed to the data analysis, helped to draft or revise the journal and seek approval before the journal is published has an authorship claim to the journal.

Now an authorship conflict can arise if the name of a person who has contributed to the journal in any form is not included in the publication.

If one of the persons whose name was cited in the journal does not give consent or agree to its publication. That is an authorship conflict and it is unethical.

If the name of one additional author is cited while the name of an already cited author is removed, whether before publication or after publication, it is an authorship conflict.

Another cause of authorship conflict is citing a person’s name based on “senior in practice” or family affiliation when the said person has contributed nothing to the research and the documentation of the research findings.

Authorship conflict can be avoided before conducting the research by selecting the authors in the beginning and also by the journals asking the authors to submit a checklist that contains the criteria for authorship.

5. Conflict of interest

Conflict of interest arises in research when the author or the researcher gets influenced by financial reasons or personal issues that ultimately affect the quality of the outcome of the study.

When these conflicts of interest arise, which could be personal conditions and financial consideration or other types of conflicts, the researcher should truthfully disclose the current situation to the editorial team, and do so completely without leaving out a detail.

Read: Undercoverage Bias: Definition, Examples in Survey Research

Research ethical guidelines are designed to guide researchers in research conduct and publications. 

This is why all researchers should develop habits of self-consciousness, self-restraint, and self of responsibility. This will enable them to take importance to the welfare of the members of the research community, the public, and their own reputation. Bearing all this in mind what wood prevents them from partaking in any misconduct in their research and publication.

Implications and Consequences of Unethical Research Practices

A researcher’s ethical obligations are to be taken seriously because they are truly no laughing matter. Here are the things at stake if violated.

  • A researcher risks an unapproved study or publication if the research proposal submitted to the supervising institution does not meet the research ethical requirements. This implies that the researcher will not be allowed to proceed with the research until the ethical conditions have been met according to the standard by the supervising institution.
  • If you have gotten a go-ahead for your study or research, failure to comply with the guidelines can result in your research being declared void and retracted. This means that you have to follow every step throughout the research else you can face disciplinary actions.
  • If your research publication is connected to your doctorate degree, your doctorate title might be revoked. If the nature of your ethics breach is criminal, then the supervising institution can take legal action against the researcher. This may lead to prison sentences for the researcher.
  • Also, an unethical omission can cause the characteristics of the researcher to be questioned in terms of reliability, and also, the validity of the test will be questioned.
  • Unethical conduct in research can put in bad media coverage and damage the reputation of you and your research institution.

Researchers should remember the consequence of unethical conduct is humiliation. Aside from the loss of reputation, there could be legal consequences. That is why researchers should not take shortcuts when conducting their research.

Retraction watch is a website where retracted researchers are publicized and no researcher would want to be featured on this website for unethical conduct.

Read: Type I vs Type II Errors: Causes, Examples & Prevention

How to Detect Unethical Research Practices

Here are some tools and mechanisms you can use to prevent and detect unethical practices. 

1. Management responsibility

In its day-to-day dealings, the management must maintain the highest standards of integrity. This is because if senior management is dishonest and corrupt, they will spread dishonest and fraudulent acts to all levels. It is their responsibility to be the highest standards when it comes to integrity.

The management is to serve as an example for all in the research organization to follow by pointing out correct and acceptable behavior to the staff. To ensure maximum security, they must make sure that the organization has all the procedures and control measures in place to ensure maximum security. 

2. Code of ethics

There must be a setup code of ethics for all employees to follow in every establishment. This should be a formal statement containing ethical codes of conduct for the organization’s employees to follow. The Code of Ethics should unambiguously state the type of behavior expected from the employees, and what is unacceptable.

3. Personnel policies and procedures

If policies and procedures are open and fair, and also efficient personnel is in an organization, the organization’s exposure to fraud will be minimal. Organizations should consider putting effective policies in place. 

Ethical Principles in Research

Respect for Individuals

  1. Researchers must base their study on the fundamental respect for human dignity.
  2. The research must respect their privacy. The autonomy and integrity of the individual must be protected.
  3. It must perform its duty to inform participants of what they’re being given. They must be provided with adequate information about the research and the purpose of the research.
  4. It must derive consent to notify. The participants must willingly grant consent before the research can proceed.
  5. It must also practice confidentiality. All personal data must be handled with utmost care and confidentiality.
  6. There must also be a responsibility to protect children and not cause others harm.

Respect for Institutions

  1. The research must be in accordance with the rules of the public administration.
  2. There must be adequate respect given to private establishments that do not want to give out their data or information.
  3. The interest of the vulnerable groups must be protected at all times.
  4. Research should be carried out on other cultures appropriately. And these cultures must be respected.
  5. Cultural monuments such as archives, artifacts, and texts must be treated with maximum care and preserved.

Explore:  21 Chrome Extensions for Academic Researchers in 2021

Formplus Features for Ethical Research

If you want to conduct a survey or make use of questionnaires in your research, the best website to use is Formplus. 

Formplus has all you need to develop your form, administer your form, gather the data from your survey or questionnaire, and interpret it.

Formplus also has in place all the requirements a researcher needs to follow ethical guidelines. Your forms are secured, private, and protected.

  • GDPR-Compliant

The GDPR-compliant consent form helps you to maintain the European Union’s data privacy laws. You can collect personal information such as names, emails, phone numbers, and addresses using the GDPR compliant form builder on Formplus.

  • Privacy Policy and Security

The privacy protection policy of Formplus is so transparent that it will tell you what the data collected from you will be used for, and who it is shared with. Also, your data is so secure that not even Formplus can access it without your permission.

Security is also 100% guaranteed. Formplus takes extra steps to ensure the privacy of its users is protected. Formplus website complies with all international laws and requirements you can think of. All your sensitive information is protected online and offline. 


Rules and guidelines are important. Not only because they give you instructions on how to carry out a procedure in research, but also because they make you responsible and respectable humans in society.

There are set ethical guidelines that protect the researcher, the research community, and the general public. It is in a researcher’s best interest to follow these laid down rules because the consequences are a long-lasting dent to whoever is involved and that might even be the end of their career.

  • busayo.longe
  • on 13 min read


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