Reviews

Ethical decision making in social research: a practical guide (2009)

The author of this book describes it as a guide to thinking through the problems of conducting ethical research in the social sciences. As such it is intended to be of practical help to social researchers in resolving ethical issues that arise from undertaking research involving human subjects. Although it is written with social scientists in mind, much of the content is relevant to nurses undertaking research within the health service.

The chapters are based on an ethical review checklist presented towards the end of the book. The list covers topics that researchers should consider when developing their proposals. It may also be of use to commissioning bodies and those responsible for reviewing proposals and/ or monitoring research.

Sections on the checklist are cross- referenced with chapters in the book. For example, items relating to minimising harm to research participants are explored in depth in the chapter entitled ‘Minimising harm, maximising benefit’.

Each chapter marries principles with practical application, using case studies to illustrate key points and encourage the reader to engage in critical reflection. The 14 chapters ethical issues from selection and recruitment, information giving and consent, safety, privacy and confidentiality, and dealing with vulnerability. The chapters on research rationale and research quality and design draw the reader’s attention to the need to consider good science as a key ethical

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The chapters are based on an ethical review checklist presented towards the end of the book. The list covers topics that researchers should consider when developing their proposals. It may also be of use to commissioning bodies and those responsible for reviewing proposals and/ or monitoring research.

Sections on the checklist are cross- referenced with chapters in the book. For example, items relating to minimising harm to research participants are explored in depth in the chapter entitled ‘Minimising harm, maximising benefit’.

Each chapter marries principles with practical application, using case studies to illustrate key points and encourage the reader to engage in critical reflection. The 14 chapters ethical issues from selection and recruitment, information giving and consent, safety, privacy and confidentiality, and dealing with vulnerability. The chapters on research rationale and research quality and design draw the reader’s attention to the need to consider good science as a key ethical criterion.

The book makes an engaging read for someone interested in developing their understanding of ethical issues in social research and through cross-referencing with the checklist is also accessible to those who require information on a specific topic. It is written for the novice and more experienced social researcher.

The introduction refers to a website associated with the book where further templates and proforma are meant to be provided for the reader. But, the web address does not appear to be given in the book or on the publisher’s website.

This book is published in hardback only and its price will place it beyond the resources of many nurse researchers. But, it will be a valuable library resource.

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