Ethical Considerations in Geography Fieldwork (2022)

When planning a geography fieldwork independent investigation, all students should consider the ethics of their fieldwork research methods.

Why are Ethical Considerations Important?

Ethical considerations are important to protect the rights and wellbeing of the people involved in research, including the researcher, and to minimise any potential harm from the research to people or the environment. Fieldwork and research involves the pursuit of truth and ethical questions and concerns should be considered at each stage of the process to help maintain integrity and honesty and avoid bias and deception.

This is a core part of good research practice and for the UK Geography A Level NEA, marks are awarded to students for showing an understanding of ethical considerations by all examining bodies. Teachers are allowed to advise students on the ethical considerations of their research, as well as on risk assessments. Students should include a summary of their ethical considerations and practice in their coursework.

What are the Principles of Ethical Research?

Informed consent

It is important that the people who participate in the research understand the purpose, aims and methods of the research and freely consent to take part. Participants should be able to withdraw from the researchat any time.

Research which involves in-depth interviews with people on asensitive topic and in which the people are identifiable in the student's report will necessitate greater ethical scrutiny and more in-depth informed consent than research which involves a short questionnaire ona non-sensitive topic in which the data is anonymised.

The standard practice for academic researchers is to provideparticipants with an information sheet which explains theresearch in clear, accessible language and to obtain consent via aconsent form. Students should consider the best way to achieve informed consentfor their proposed research methods.

These could include:

(Video) Field Work in Geography| ETHICS OF FIELD WORK |Session: 5

  • An information sheet for the participants toread before taking part and consent form for participants to sign.
  • A description at the top of a questionnaireoutlining the research. It could state that participants consent to take partby completing the questionnaire (implied consent).
  • A pre-written description of the research which is read to the participant with consent given verbally.
  • A description on a webpage with an online consent form for research taking place online.

For research undertaken in Spain itis advised to have a version of all research materials in Spanish and English.

Photography is essential to all types of geographical research. Besides seeking consent from individuals, consent to photograph more general scenes, for example of street markets or domestic characteristics, should also be considered.

Anonymity and confidentiality

Students should consider whether the data they collect will be made anonymous by removing names and any other personal identifiers. Best practice is that research data shouldbe anonymised unless there is a specific reason not to do so. Studentsshould also consider if they will share the data collected with others (forexample, other students or research participants). Students must informparticipants whether their data will be anonymous and confidential.

Researcher behaviour

Students should behave in a professional manner whenconducting their research. This includes adopting the role of a neutralresearcher and respecting people's opinions (particularly when they may differfrom their own), and people's right to not take part in the research.

Bias is antithetical to a researcher's role. We all see the world through our own lenses and the difficulty of adopting a neutral role in a time of fake news[1], declining objective journalism and increasing media activism and agenda bias should be acknowledged. The report from the UK Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools[2] found that only 2% of children and young people in the UK have the critical literacy skills they need to tell if a news story is real or fake. 'We are increasingly faced with a (mainstream) media that barely hides its prejudices' is the conclusion of newgeography.com[3] in its discussion of the demise of press diversity and openness in the US. To help identify fake news and reduce bias in their research, students should make efforts to use triangulation[4] and explore alternative facts, values and viewpoints within and beyond mainstream media, particularly of those they may tend to disagree with[5].

There are many ethical considerations to be taken into account in making use of photography in geographical research. These include image selection, accurate representation, image cropping and manipulation as well as subject consent mentioned above. The researcher should adopt techniques that avoid filtering images based on prior ideas and opinions. A mosaic of 'ordinary' images of the same feature taken over time rather than selecting the 'best' one can assist in a more objective and honest analysis and help identify contrary evidence.

Students should consider how they present themselves whenundertaking the research. For example, they could wear a badge to identifythemselves and their role as a researcher and avoid wearing sloganed or 'statement' clothing.

The safety of the researcher is also an important ethicalconsideration. Students should consider their safety and ensure appropriatesteps are taken to minimise risk. This should beincluded as part of the risk assessment.

(Video) Ethical Issues in Fieldwork

Environmental impact of research

Students should consider the potential environmental impactof their research. This could include considering whether it is necessary toremove samples from the natural environment for further analysis in thelaboratory or classroom and how they will minimise any harm or damage caused to theenvironment by undertaking their research. Students should also considerconsent to access their research study sites.

Data collection

Where sampling is used to study people or places, random or systematic techniques may be combined with stratified sampling to help avoid bias and to ensure that data collected is a fair representation of the whole population studied.

Random sampling avoids bias in selecting specific people or places. Systematic sampling collects data at regular intervals e.g. every 50 metres along a transect line, or from every tenth person. Stratified sampling divides the target population into its representative groups or categories, e.g. different age ranges, or the upper, middle and lower stages of a river long profile.

Data interpretation and storage

Students should process, analyse and interpret their data ina fair, transparent and representative manner. Opinions expressed should be founded on honestly gathered data, supported by theory and fact. Data should never befalsified, made up or manipulated to deceive. It is important for students to understand thattheir research does not have to convincingly prove or disprove their hypothesesand that research in the real world is often messy, with unexpected and contradictory results.

Students should be conscious of cultural and cognitivebiases when interpreting their data. Our assumptions about other cultures maybias our perceptions of them and this can impact onobjectivity, including issues of stigma, stereotyping, discrimination andethnocentrism. A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that affects thedecision and judgments that people make - see this infographic from Business Insider[6] to find out more.

Students should practice the principles of good data managementand consider how they will anonymise, file, label and store data securely. Thisincludes how data will be stored when in the field, when and where this datawill be transferred, deletion of files on mobiledevices, a systematic way of versioning files, and a system for backing up data.

Ethical Research in Practice

Human Geography Enquiry Example

(Video) A (brief) NEA guide - Episode 2: evaluation and considering the ethical dimensions of your research

Example MethodEthical considerations

Questionnaire (e.g. on cultural regeneration in El Raval)

  • Questions are written in clear, accessible andneutral language and are free from bias.
  • Questionnaire only includes questions/topicswhich are relevant to the research.
  • Questionnaire is produced in English andSpanish to ensure participants understand the questions.
  • No personal data is collected (unless there isa justifiable reason), i.e. it is anonymous.
  • Decide in advance whether the data will beshared with any other students, i.e. whether it will be confidential.
  • A statement is produced to include at the topof the questionnaire to obtain informed consent, e.g. Thisresearch is being undertaken for my Geography A Level Coursework. The aim ofthe research is <insert aims>. This questionnaire does not ask for anypersonal information. Your answers will not be sharedwith anyone else and the data will be stored securely. You are free to stopand withdraw at any time. If you are happy to take part, then please completethe questionnaire below.
  • Student behaves in a professional andrespectful manner while conducting the research. Potential participants arenot pressured into taking part.
  • Student has considered how they will identifythemselves, e.g. by wearing a badge or by introducing themselves as astudent researcher.
  • Students are always with at least one/twoothers in order to ensure their safety, have an emergency contact phone numberand only conduct their research during daylight hours.
  • Questionnaires are stored securely in thestudent's hotel room. Data is typed up and storedelectronically within one week of the fieldwork with a clear filing system.A back-up is made of the data.
  • Data is analysed in a fair and representativemanner, free from cultural and cognitive bias.

Physical Geography Enquiry Example

Example MethodEthical considerations

Beach profiles and sediment analysis

  • Check access requirements to the beaches andobtain permission if required. In Spain there is public access to all beaches.
  • Plan timings of research to avoid disruptionto other beach users, particularly relevant in summer. Maintain a respectfuldistance to other beach users. Explain what you're doing if asked by membersof the public.
  • Do all analysis of pebbles on the shinglebeach. Only remove sand samples from sandy beaches if essential to yourresearch project, and return the sand to the beach after analysis.
  • Minimise any impact to the environment: takeall equipment away, do not litter and avoid trampling vegetation.
  • Students are always with at least one/twoothers and have an emergency contact phone number.
  • Research data is stored securely in thestudent's hotel room. Data is typed up and storedelectronically within one week of the fieldwork with a clear filing system.A back-up is made of the data.
  • Data is analysed in a fair and representativemanner, free from cognitive bias.

1 Fake news is commonly defined as:

  • untrue, false, or made up information, presented as fact;
  • true information misrepresented, misused or misapplied to paint a false picture of reality;
  • false or misleading news maintained by omitting factually true contrary information;
  • misleading news choices with important news stories ignored or hidden if they do not fit the news provider's agenda bias or narrative.

2 Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools (13.6.2018) Fake news and critical literacy: final report.

3 Joel Kotkin, NewGeography.com 21.10.2019 Media Meltdowns and Political Polarization.

(Video) 3 Values of Fieldwork

4 Triangulation is a qualitative research strategy to test validity of data through the convergence of information from multiple sources (Patton, 1999).

5 A current example at the time of preparing this article (30 December 2019) is the misleading reporting of the effects of climate change on the Victoria Falls. Two left-of-centre mainstream media select or omit different data to arrive at contrasting headlines: The Guardian 7.12.2019 Victoria Falls dries to a trickle after worst drought in a century and El Pais 29.12.2019 (translated from Spanish) The False Death of the Victoria Falls.


Further information

(Video) Geographical Tools

Many human geographers adhere to the ethical codes of theBritish Sociological Association https://www.britsoc.co.uk/media/24310/bsa_statement_of_ethical_practice.pdfor the Association of Social Anthropologists https://www.theasa.org/ethics/guidelines.html

Sources

This web page is informed by the UK Edexcel Examiners report 2019 and the specifications of the UK A Level Geography Examination Boards.

FAQs

What are the ethical issues in geography fieldwork? ›

Ethical dilemmas involving issues of harm-benefit, privacy, deception, and sponsor relations are encountered frequently in geographical research.

What are the 5 ethical considerations? ›

These principles include voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, potential for harm, and results communication.

What are the 4 ethical considerations? ›

There are four main principles of ethics: autonomy, beneficence, justice, and non-maleficence. Each patient has the right to make their own decisions based on their own beliefs and values. [4].

What are the ethics in fieldwork? ›

Self-assessment of ability to conduct the work: Fieldwork often demands many skills, from interviewing and questionnaire design to the protection of participant confidentiality to data management and reporting. But when we take on work that is beyond our capacity, we may cause harm through our mistakes or misjudgments.

What is one ethical consideration in anthropological fieldwork and why is it important? ›

The basic ethical principles to be maintained include doing good, not doing harm and protecting the autonomy, wellbeing, safety and dignity of all research participants. Researchers should be as objective as possible and avoid ethnocentricity. Any deception of participants should be fully justified.

What is the importance role value and ethics of field work in geographical studies? ›

Fieldwork enables students to develop their understanding of different perspectives on social, political or ecological issues, enabling them to clarify and justify their own values whilst learning to acknowledge and respect other people's values (Job et al 1999).

What are the 7 principles of ethics? ›

The principles are beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, justice; truth-telling and promise-keeping.

What are the 7 ethical principles in research? ›

In this article, which has become a seminal piece in the field, the authors propose seven requirements that a clinical research study needs to fulfill in order to be considered ethical: social or scientific value, scientific validity, fair subject selection, favorable risk-benefit ratio, independent review, informed ...

What are the 8 ethical principles? ›

This analysis focuses on whether and how the statements in these eight codes specify core moral norms (Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, and Justice), core behavioral norms (Veracity, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Fidelity), and other norms that are empirically derived from the code statements.

Why are ethical considerations important? ›

It is important to adhere to ethical principles in order to protect the dignity, rights and welfare of research participants. As such, all research involving human beings should be reviewed by an ethics committee to ensure that the appropriate ethical standards are being upheld.

How do you include ethical considerations in research? ›

Ethical Considerations
  1. Research participants should not be subjected to harm in any ways whatsoever.
  2. Respect for the dignity of research participants should be prioritised.
  3. Full consent should be obtained from the participants prior to the study.
  4. The protection of the privacy of research participants has to be ensured.

What are some ethical issues in research? ›

ETHICAL ISSUES IN RESEARCH
  • Study design and ethics approval. According to COPE, “good research should be well adjusted, well-planned, appropriately designed, and ethically approved. ...
  • Data analysis. ...
  • Authorship. ...
  • Conflicts of interest. ...
  • Redundant publication and plagiarism.
31 Aug 2006

What is the importance of field work in geography? ›

Geographers regard fieldwork as a vital instrument for understanding our world through direct experience, for gathering basic data about this world, and as a fundamental method for enacting geographical education.

What are some of the ethical issues encountered in the practice of anthropological research that require the protection of human subjects? ›

Below are just a few of the many ethical concerns of anthropologists:
  • Anonymity. Anonymity is an important feature of research. ...
  • Honesty. Honesty is an evident and important quality for all anthropological research. ...
  • Objectivity. Anthropologists must continually strive to produce research that is objective. ...
  • Peer Reviewing.

What is an example of ethical concern that an anthropologist has encountered while doing fieldwork? ›

Maintain Anonymity and Privacy

Another important ethical consideration for anthropologists in the field is ensuring the anonymity and privacy of informants who need such protection.

What are the six ethical responsibilities of anthropologists? ›

Obtain Informed Consent and Necessary Permissions. Weigh Competing Ethical Obligations Due Collaborators and Affected Parties. Make Your Results Accessible. Protect and Preserve Your Records.

What are the three ethical obligations that anthropologists follow? ›

When there is a conflict of interest, these individuals must come first. Anthropologists must do everything in their power to protect the physical, social, and psychological welfare and to honor the dignity and privacy of those studied.

Why is the issue of ethics so important today in anthropological studies? ›

Ethical principles are vital for anthropologists because important ethical issues arise in their work. This set of principles is intended to heighten awareness of the ethical issues that face anthropologists, and to offer them workable guidelines to help resolve these issues.

What are the challenges of Fieldwork? ›

The reasons that actual fieldwork is difficult are fairly obvious:
  • Fieldwork is logistically challenging. ...
  • It costs money. ...
  • Many teachers have only limited experience doing field science themselves. ...
  • Fieldwork poses safety and behavior concerns different from those in the classroom.

How do you do Fieldwork in geography? ›

Field Work in Geography| INTRODUCTION| Session: 1

What are the stages of Fieldwork? ›

  • STEP-BY-STEP FIELDWORK PLAN.
  • STEP 1: SELECTION OF THE TOPIC.
  • STEP 2: FORMULATION OF THE HYPOTHESES / QUESTIONS.
  • STEP 3: PREPARATORY WORK.
  • STEP 4: COLLECTION OF THE DATA.
  • STEP 5: TREATMENT, PRESENTATION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE DATA.
  • STEP 6: CONCLUSION AND EVALUATION.
  • STEP 7: REFERENCING OF SECONDARY SOURCES.

What are the 3 types of ethics? ›

Ethics is traditionally subdivided into normative ethics, metaethics, and applied ethics.

What are some examples of ethics? ›

Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty.

What is an ethical guideline? ›

Ethical guidelines or codes are used by groups and organizations to define what actions are morally right and wrong. The guidelines are used by group members as a code with which to perform their duties.

What is meant by ethical principles? ›

Definition. Ethical principles are part of a normative theory that justifies or defends moral rules and/or moral judgments; they are not dependent on one's subjective viewpoints.

What is the role of ethics in research? ›

It is essential for a researcher to ensure that his or her aim is to provide original information, truth and avoid any errors. In addition, being ethical enables authors to adopt a collaborative approach for their research with due support from their mentors, guides and peers.

What are the six core ethical values? ›

These values were identified by a nonpartisan, nonsectarian (secular) group of youth development experts in 1992 as “core ethical values that transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences”. The Six Pillars of Character are: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship.

How do ethical concerns affect research? ›

Research ethics are important for a number of reasons. They promote the aims of research, such as expanding knowledge. They support the values required for collaborative work, such as mutual respect and fairness. This is essential because scientific research depends on collaboration between researchers and groups.

What is legal and ethical considerations? ›

It defines the values and responsibilities that are fundamental to a particular profession. This code is intended to assist employees to act in ethically informed ways in the pursuit of the profession's values and aims.

What are the two biggest ethical concerns in conducting qualitative data research? ›

Two ethical issues in qualitative research include confidentiality, and the role of the researcher as a data collection instrument. When we use qualitative data collection techniques, we usually spend a lot of time with research populations.

What is an example of a ethical issue? ›

Some examples of ethical dilemma include: Taking credit for others' work. Offering a client a worse product for your own profit. Utilizing inside knowledge for your own profit.

What are examples of unethical practices? ›

Examples of Unethical Behavior
  • Overbilling Clients. Overbilling involves charging people a deceptive amount, such as charging someone for 5 hours of work even though a job only took two. ...
  • Lying. ...
  • Mistreatment of Animals. ...
  • Child Labor. ...
  • Oppressing Political Activism. ...
  • False Advertising. ...
  • Gossiping. ...
  • Sabotage.
17 May 2022

What are some real life examples of ethical dilemmas? ›

16 Real-Life Examples of Ethical Dilemmas
  • Should parents monitor teens' social media activities? ...
  • Reporting an accident.
  • Ghosting in the workplace.
  • Medical care versus religious beliefs.
  • Misinterpret data deliberately?
  • Share my political leanings and risk losing clients?
  • Internet dilemmas.
16 Mar 2021

What is geographical Fieldwork? ›

Geography fieldwork

Fieldwork is an essential component of geography education. It enables pupils to better understand the 'messiness' of 'geographical reality', develop subject knowledge, and gain a range of skills that are difficult to develop in the classroom alone.

What are the objectives of Fieldwork? ›

Fieldwork is designed to provide the student with an opportunity for a practical, “real world” experience for the purpose of developing direct leadership, programming, and administrative skills sufficient for entry into a professional career.

What is field research in geography? ›

Field research. Geography 411 - Field Techniques. Field research. "The systematic observation and collection of otherwise unavailable (primary) data" Learning geography by casual observation of landscapes (travel) is analogous to learning chemical compounds by taste, touch, odour and colour.

What sort of ethical issues do archaeologists encounter? ›

A common ethical issue in modern archaeology has been the treatment of human remains found during excavations, especially those that represent the ancestors of aboriginal groups in the New World or the remains of other minority races elsewhere.

What are the anthropological ethics? ›

Ethics in anthropology basically reflects general moral principles of what is bad and what is good in terms of what one should not do and what one should do as a professional in the discipline.

How do anthropologists face the ethical challenges that emerge through conducting anthropological research? ›

How do anthropologists face the ethical challenges that emerge through conducting anthropological research? Anthropologists must stay aware of the potential uses and abuses of anthropological knowledge and the ways that it is obtained. What can anthropology contribute to the understanding of globalization?

Why are ethical issues important when doing fieldwork? ›

Ethical considerations are important to protect the rights and wellbeing of the people involved in research, including the researcher, and to minimise any potential harm from the research to people or the environment.

What special ethical dilemmas do ethnographers face? ›

What Special Ethical Dilemmas Do Ethnographers Face? All anthropologists face common ethical dilemmas: the commitment to do no harm, considerations about to whom anthropologists are responsible, and who should control anthropology's findings.

What are some ethical issues you think forensic anthropologists and Bioarchaeologists encounter while conducting research? ›

A few ethical considerations for the forensic anthropologist involved in human rights violations include the use of appropriate standards of identification, presenting reliable and unbiased testimony, and maintaining preservation of evidence.

What are considered ethical issues? ›

The most commonly experienced ethical issues include discrimination, harassment, unethical accounting, technological abuse, data privacy, health and safety, and favoritism and nepotism. Most of these concerns are experienced in workplaces.

What are the ethical issues in data analysis? ›

In particular, privacy rights, data validity, and algorithm fairness in the areas of Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are the most important ethical challenges in need of a more thorough investigation.

What ethics rules should be considered when conducting a research? ›

Principles of research ethics
  • Respect for persons - autonomy and protecting those with diminished autonomy. ...
  • Beneficence and non-maleficence. ...
  • Justice. ...
  • Informed consent. ...
  • Confidentiality and data protection. ...
  • Integrity. ...
  • Conflict of interest.

What is the importance of field work in geography? ›

Geographers regard fieldwork as a vital instrument for understanding our world through direct experience, for gathering basic data about this world, and as a fundamental method for enacting geographical education.

What are the 7 principles of ethics? ›

The principles are beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, justice; truth-telling and promise-keeping.

What are the common ethical rules? ›

of principles incorporate the characteristics and values that most people associate with ethical behavior.
  1. HONESTY. ...
  2. INTEGRITY. ...
  3. PROMISE-KEEPING & TRUSTWORTHINESS. ...
  4. LOYALTY. ...
  5. FAIRNESS. ...
  6. CONCERN FOR OTHERS. ...
  7. RESPECT FOR OTHERS. ...
  8. LAW ABIDING.

What is the example of ethical? ›

Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty.

Why are ethical considerations important? ›

It is important to adhere to ethical principles in order to protect the dignity, rights and welfare of research participants. As such, all research involving human beings should be reviewed by an ethics committee to ensure that the appropriate ethical standards are being upheld.

What are the 3 basic data ethics? ›

Data Ethics
  • Trust. ...
  • Fair practices. ...
  • Data privacy compliance.

Why are ethical issues important in research? ›

There are several reasons why it is important to adhere to ethical norms in research. First, norms promote the aims of research, such as knowledge, truth, and avoidance of error. For example, prohibitions against fabricating, falsifying, or misrepresenting research data promote the truth and minimize error.

What are the 8 ethical principles? ›

This analysis focuses on whether and how the statements in these eight codes specify core moral norms (Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, and Justice), core behavioral norms (Veracity, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Fidelity), and other norms that are empirically derived from the code statements.

How do you include ethical considerations in research? ›

Ethical Considerations
  1. Research participants should not be subjected to harm in any ways whatsoever.
  2. Respect for the dignity of research participants should be prioritised.
  3. Full consent should be obtained from the participants prior to the study.
  4. The protection of the privacy of research participants has to be ensured.

How do you ensure ethics in research? ›

Five principles for research ethics
  1. Discuss intellectual property frankly. ...
  2. Be conscious of multiple roles. ...
  3. Follow informed-consent rules. ...
  4. Respect confidentiality and privacy. ...
  5. Tap into ethics resources.

What are the challenges of Fieldwork? ›

The reasons that actual fieldwork is difficult are fairly obvious:
  • Fieldwork is logistically challenging. ...
  • It costs money. ...
  • Many teachers have only limited experience doing field science themselves. ...
  • Fieldwork poses safety and behavior concerns different from those in the classroom.

What is geographical Fieldwork? ›

Geography fieldwork

Fieldwork is an essential component of geography education. It enables pupils to better understand the 'messiness' of 'geographical reality', develop subject knowledge, and gain a range of skills that are difficult to develop in the classroom alone.

What are the objectives of Fieldwork? ›

Fieldwork is designed to provide the student with an opportunity for a practical, “real world” experience for the purpose of developing direct leadership, programming, and administrative skills sufficient for entry into a professional career.

Videos

1. Starting your investigation in 2022 - Year 12s by John Smith, Fieldwork Adviser & Chief Examiner
(Geographical Association Tyne and Wear Branch)
2. Ethics Fieldwork
(Kalee Fonseca-Cruz)
3. Ethics of field work| Field work in Geography| Ethics of field work in research| Part 2 (in Bangla)
(Geo Easy Class)
4. CHALLENGES OF FIELD WORK
(GGAST Resource)
5. Fieldwork Unseen
(Geography BLS)
6. FIELDWORK LIVE - KS4 | How does quality of life vary in an urban area?
(Encounter Edu)

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