The importance of ethics

Consider ethics early and often in your extended project

Ethics is an essential part of research practice. As a researcher, you have responsibility to the participants in your research, your colleagues, wider society, and the environment. Of course you also need to ensure that it would be legal to conduct your project.

Time spent early on, thinking about ethical implications of your research, will pay off. Are you collecting data from people – especially information that could identify individuals? Will you need consent? Answers to questionnaires or recordings of conversations could be particularly sensitive. Imagine asking other students what they like and dislike about school – they might reveal personal details about themselves or other people. Alternatively, will your investigation have harmful effects on the environment?

“Practical EPQs can pose some real-life ethical problems,” says Dr Julian Foster, an EPQ supervisor and teacher at Peter Symonds College in Winchester. “Students need to discuss the issue of using animals in experiments and the precautions needed to safeguard human subjects. I’ve occasionally been shocked by projects in which human participants have been used with no evidence of any informed consent or attempt to provide anonymity.”

For more advice on how to conduct your research ethically, see our ethical guidance sections.

Further reading

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects’ in June 2015.

Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects
Education levels:
16–19, Independent research projects