Guidelines on Ethical Research

The BSA Statement of Ethical Practice has been a longstanding resource for the community, often being cited and referred to a robust set of principles for conducting research.  We began a consultative process to update it and are very happy to launch our newest guidance on ethical research practices for sociologists.

The revised ethics guidelines provide an update that takes into account key changes that have affected sociologists’ work roles and research engagement.  We have expanded the resources to better respond to the needs and queries facing researchers in the current environment.

  • BSA Statement of Ethical Practice 2017
  • Digital Research Ethics Annexe
  • Researching Online Forums - Digital Research Ethics Case Study 1
  • Using Twitter for Criminology Research - Digital Research Ethics Case Study 2
  • Researching Social Machines - Digital Research Ethics Case Study 3
  • Ethics Committee Submission for using Twitter - Digital Research Ethics Case Study 4
  • Ethics Committee Submission for Mixed Methods Involving Young People - Digital Research Ethics Case Study 5
  • Ethics Committee Submission for Open Data and Democratic Governance - Digital Research Ethics Case Study 6

The BSA Statement of Ethical Practice is designed to be a stand-alone document that states underlying principles, provides general guidance and which is relatively ‘future-proof’.   Taking into account the proliferation of roles filled by sociologists, it considers the ethical implications of sociologists’ varied types of involvement, both within and outside of the academy - including management and administrative roles; supervision, teaching, examining, and reviewing activities; as well as their work serving on a range of committees/panels/expert working groups; and responsibilities with regard to providing commentaries, publishing, or otherwise representing the discipline. This statement can be readily referred to on grant/ethics applications, for example, and may be easily used as a starting point for working through ethical issues.  

With regard to research, the online/digital environment has provided new opportunities and raised many challenges (some of which arise in other contexts, but which may be more sharply articulated in this fast-moving sphere). Therefore, we have added a Digital Research Ethics Annexe.  This new series of discussion documents and case studies makes up a comprehensive annexe, which provides guidance and online resources relevant to digital research ethics. It also helps sociologists to focus on and formulate nuanced and appropriate ethical responses by considering exemptions.  We see the principles and guidelines, as well as the case studies as part of an ongoing conversation and we welcome further updates and contributions.

Submit an Ethics Case Study

The ethics of research and our ethical practice as professional sociologists is in continuous development as we face new challenges and as global contexts shift.  We welcome feedback and further case studies on any aspect of ethical practice for sociologists.  Sociologists are encouraged to send case study material relevant to all types of research.  Please send any case studies to BSA Publications.