Best-laid plans – teacher notes

This section makes the point that working ethically doesn’t end with the completion of an ethical checklist. Rather, students should be constantly alert to the ways in which they are working and ready to take action if things look like they are going wrong

Activity 6: What to do?

As with many ethical questions, there is not a well-defined right answer. However, students should appreciate that the main aim should be to minimise any upset. Petra and her friends should not continue working in the churchyard during the funeral, any conversation should be respectful and apologetic, rather than defensive, and a follow-up letter would probably be appreciated.

Students should also be able to suggest that Petra should have established, beforehand, the times of any church services or other events, and avoided being in the churchyard during those times.

Activity 7: Show and tell?

A key point here is that the questionnaire responses are confidential. Showing the comments to anyone else, or talking about them, would cause upset.

In a real project on which this case study is based, the project student asked a teacher to collect the questionnaires. The teacher read them, and showed the hurtful comments to the colleague referred to, causing upset and anger. While the student should not have asked anyone else to pick up the questionnaires, the message here is that teachers, too, have an ethical responsibility.

The Research Ethics Guidebook (see references in ‘Right at the end – teacher notes’) contains other examples of problems arising during research, and explains how the researchers addressed them. 


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects’ in October 2016.

Statistics and maths, Careers, Psychology
Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects
Education levels:
16–19, Independent research projects, Continuing professional development