Becoming an ethical researcher
Becoming an ethical researcher

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Becoming an ethical researcher

5.1 Data as a source of evidence

To be in a position to evaluate data assumes a researcher has thought about what counts as possible data sources. Research involving humans often involves thinking widely about sources of evidence about their attitudes, opinions, values, feelings and behaviours as relevant to their research topics (questions or hypotheses).

Activity 9 Is it data?

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

Which of the following might count as valid data that could be ethically collected in a research project? Add a ‘X’ to the relevant boxes and then click the ‘Reveal discussion’ tab.

1 A handwritten love letter
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
2 A screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
3 An interview transcript
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
4 Examination scores for a class of children
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
5 A clay model made by a vulnerable young person in a therapeutic session
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
6 Numerical responses to a survey
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
7 An anonymised child’s drawing
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
8 A youth worker’s audio reflection of their day at work
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
9 Performance management data on an employee
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
10 Frequency records of how many times an activity was carried out per day
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Words: 0
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

Now look again at the list and think about your assumptions. This activity was designed to challenge you. All of these possibilities could count as data depending on the context and research topic.

If you selected 3, 4, 6 and 10 then perhaps your view of data prioritises quantitative (numerical) data as more valid than qualitative (text, audio, visual) data.

If you selected types such as 3, 6, 7, 10, you might have been thinking about which were more straightforward, less personal, for a researcher to access. Data sources 3, 6, 7 and 10 are likely to be primary, rather than secondary, data sources, which are likely to have been generated for the purposes of the research rather than already existing.

For example, a love letter could be an important turning point in autobiographical, narrative or historical research. An artefact such as a clay model or a child’s drawing might come from a visual or participatory methodology to convey what can be expressed more appropriately than in words or numbers.

What we don’t know from the above list is whether the data has been collected and stored according to ethical (and legal) principles. If the WhatsApp conversation screenshot was shared without consent or if identifying features were included, then it might lead to embarrassment or even harmful repercussions when shared in a different arena. If the performance management data was collected, this would need consent from both the leader holding the data and the employee to whom it relates and would need to be kept securely and confidentially.

EE831_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371