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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Article published in Level3, Issue 3, May 2005.


The social sciences in general and educational researchers in particular have become more and more conscious of ethical propriety and the need for universally acceptable codes of ethical conduct in recent years. This newfound interest stems in part from criticisms of innovative contemporary research methodologies, and the fear that they may be at odds with certain fundamental ethical principles. This, in turn, has resulted in the integrity and validity of some of these new contemporary styles of research being held up to scrutiny and debated by adherents to the more conventional research methodologies. This paper begins by tracing back to the origins of ethical philosophy in an attempt to put in perspective the underlying principles behind the rules governing ethical behaviour, and what exactly we mean by the term today. The application of these principles to rules governing sound ethical research practice is reviewed from both an epistemological and ontological perspective. Some contemporary methodologies (namely, covert research, ethnographic studies and action research) are defined and interpreted with a view to reviewing their compliance or otherwise with the accepted principles of ethical practice within the field of research. Finally, conclusions are drawn from the matters alluded to within the paper with a view to reconciling some of the inherent ethical inconsistencies that appear to exist. Definitive answers are not proffered, as the author believes that no definitive answers are possible, merely prescriptive contingent discriminations to resolve the current impasse.