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Doing Research





According to the American Psychological Association Manual (APA Manual) there are three main types of issues regarding the ethics of research: (1) Plagiarism, (2) Rights and confidentiality of Research Participants, (3) Publication credits (2010, pp. 16-20).


The Ethics of Research


Broadly speaking, plagiarism is presenting someone else’s words or ideas as your own. This definition is extended to self plagiarism, which is copying or recycling your ideas and present them as new. The rationale behind the idea is that “the core of the new document must constitute and original contribution to knowledge” (2010, p. 16). In other words, researchers are expected to create original content in any new document they produce, leaving already published material at a minimum.


To avoid any risk of committing plagiarism, authors should always (1) include quotation marks when they are citing the exact words from another author, and (2) the information of the source between parenthesis.


For a detailed explanation of the varieties of plagiarism, we encourage the reader to consult our guide.


Rights and Confidentiality of Research Participants

The first step in conducting any type of research is to have the proper certifications. Different disciplines have different requirements, especially when the research is done on humans or animals. Most institutions will ask researchers to present their proposals to be reviewed and approved by their Institutional Review Boards. Additionally, it’s customary for researchers to take a course on Human Subjects Protection. At UTEP is mandatory to have certain qualifications to perform research. According to the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects:

All UTEP researchers (faculty, staff, and students) and outside collaborators who will be conducting human subjects’ research (intervention and/or interaction) must complete human subject research ethics training in order to conduct research with human participants.

Training can be completed through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). It is a more comprehensive training module. Once completed, the training is valid for three years and accepted at most universities across the states (UTEP’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, (n.d.))


The second step is to follow the appropriate protocols to protect the confidentiality of the research participants. According to the APA Manual, “when researchers use case studies to describe their research, they are prohibited from disclosing “confidential, personally identifiable information concerning their patients, individual or organizational clients, students, research participants, or other recipients of their services” (2010, p. 16-17).

There are two options to manage participants confidentiality: (1) having written consent from the participants, and (2) concealing the participant’s identification information (2010, p. 17).

The third step is to disclose any potential conflicts of research among the researchers and participants, funding institutions, sponsors, political parties, institutional affiliations, religious groups, etc. Although scientific research is based on the premise of objectivity, the social nature of science might influence unwanted interferences in the process. As the APA Manual suggests, “An author’s economic and commercial interests in products or services used or discussed in a paper may color such objectivity” (2010, p. 17). Conflicts of interest threaten any endeavour that aims to be objective because those influences have the potential to produce biased process and results.

Nevertheless, research transparency is vital to dissipate any suspicions and make the researcher and the research accountable. According to the APA Manual “the safest and most open course of action is to disclose in an author note activities and relationships that if known to others might be viewed as a conflict of interest, even if you do not believe that any conflict of interest or bias exists” (2010, p. 17).

Publication Credit

The definition of authorship according to the APA Manual is the following “Individuals should only take authorship credit for work they have actually performed or to which they have substantially contributed” (2010, p. 18). In cases when there is more than one author, there are some conventions that might be followed: “the name of the principal contributor should appear first” (2010, p. 19). This means that even if the author is a doctoral student, but whose contribution is more substantial than any other author, irrespective of their institutional status, then his/her name should go placed first.

Authorship has another important side, which is responsibility. The authors are accountable of what they publish. Therefore, in cases where the ethics of research have been violated they are the ones who face the consequences of misdemeanours.


Works consulted


American Psychological Association (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.


UTEP’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (n.d.). Training. Human Subjects Research. Retrieved from