The ASA Code of Ethics
The American Sociological Association (ASA) Code of Ethics (1997) sets forth certain basic standards that sociologists must follow in conducting research: t. Researchers must endeavor to maintain objectivity • and integrity in their research by disclosing their research findings in full and including all possible interpretations of the data (even those interpretations that do not support their own viewpoints).
2. Researchers must safeguard the participants' right to privacy and dignity while protecting them from harm. .
3. Researchers must protect confidential information provided by participants. even when this Information i. not considered to be "prtvlleged" (legally protected. as is the case between doctor and patient and between attorney and client) and legal pressure is applied to reveal this information.
4. Researchers must acknowledge research collaboration and assistance they receive from others and disclose all sources of financial support. Sociologists are obligated to adhere to this code and to protect research participants; however. many ethical issues arise that cannot be easily resolved. Ethics in sociological research is a difficult and often ambiguous topic. But ethical issues cannot be ignored by researchers. whether they are sociology professors. graduate students conducting investigations for their dissertations. or undergraduates conducting a class research project Sociologists have a burden of "self-reflection" -of seeking to understand the role they play in contemporary social processes while at the same time assessing how these social processes affect their Iindings (Gouldner, 1970).
How honest do researchers have to be with potential participants? Let's look at two specific cases in point. Where does the "right to know" end and the "right to privacy" begin in these situations?