Every country has its own regulations concerning ethical issues in research. Every researcher has to make sure that the study and the questionnaire is in accordance with the local rules.
Ethical considerations in questionnaire studies
Every country has its own regulations concerning ethical issues in research. The researcher has to make sure that the study and the questionnaire is in accordance with the local rules. In most countries study protocols have to be approved by ethical committees.
In questionnaire studies, the ethical questions mostly involve the recruitment of the sample, the content of the questionnaire and the use of the data. Power calculations need to be performed in order to make sure that the sample size is sufficient to draw conclusions from the study. Participation has to be voluntary, and an informed consent is needed from the participants. In practice, returning the questionnaire is considered consent in mail surveys, and agreeing to be interviewed is considered consent in telephone surveys.
Sensitive questions e.g. regarding a manager/supervisor, may cause ethical concerns in a survey. In presenting the results, the researcher has to take care not to identify or harm any individuals contributing the data. This can happen if data from very small groups are presented.
It is advisable not to present data identifying occupational groups when they have less than 20 members, for example. A survey with sound ethics also informs its participants of the results of the study. It has to be done in a “constructive” manner and a language well-understood by the respondents. The reporting can be done by various means depending on the study group, size and budget: personal letters or meetings with the respondents, or in the media used by the respondents.