Have a look at the final report here
A key element to consider in conducting my research was the ethical treatment of and effective communication with participants. It was integral that my research followed socially responsible principles, primarily through the establishment of informed consent. Practicing informed consent ensured respect for the participants as well the ability to notify them of my aims and the progress of this study. Shahnahzarian et al. emphasise that informed consent is especially important in conducting research projects as it provides autonomy where subjects are fully aware of the risks and benefits of the study and what is required of them (2013, p.4). Furthermore, it protects vulnerable populations and ensures subjects are willingly and safely participating in studies (2013, p.3).
Consent was established prior to participation through a disclaimer in my survey as well as verbally in my focus group following guidelines from The Human Research Ethics Committee at the University of Wollongong. I provided all participants with a link to my blog on which I posted key findings during the course of my research. Additionally, contact with my focus group in the form of individual messages allowed for effective representation and clear communication in line with ethical research practices. All participants remained anonymous which also aligned with socially responsible principles.
The principle of reflexivity also became a central consideration while conducting my research. I engaged specifically with ‘reflexivity as introspection’ (Finlay 2002) which is recognised by Walsh (1995, p.35) as a tool that allows researchers to embrace their own interests and use these to better understand the motivations of others. Reflexive research enabled me to engage with a topic that sparked a passion in my understanding, but also challenged me to recognise that not everyone possesses the same innate concern about the environment. Researching reflexively challenged me to move beyond my own experiences and recongise the varying ideas, beliefs and experiences of people in different contexts. The need to separate personal experience, claims to knowledge, experiences of participants and contexts in which different participants reside enabled me to conduct more effective reflexive research that used introspection ‘not as an end in itself but as a springboard for interpretations and more general insight’ (Finlay, 2002, p. 215). This was incredibly important when researching such a broad topic as the environment.
The concept of Integrity was also a crucial element to consider throughout my whole research project, but I found it especially relevant in the analysis of my data. As recognised by Korenman (2006), research integrity includes principles of ‘honesty, the golden rule, trustworthiness, and a high regard for the scientific record’ as well as intellectual honesty and a personal responsibility for actions. The results drawn from my survey and the comments made in the focus group directly juxtaposed each other, making it very difficult for me to accurately represent both data sets in a concise and conclusive manner. However, as established in Lecture 7, the importance of integrity is crucial in protecting and accurately representing participants and conducting ethical research (Bowles, 2017). Following guidelines from Powell and Renner (2003) who emphasise that ‘there is no single or best way’ to analyse data, I used in-depth observation, discipline and a systematic approach to ensure my research analysis displayed integrity and effectively represented those who participated.
If I were to conduct this research project again, I would approach it with a narrower focus. While I really enjoyed researching this topic, as I progressed I found more questions arose than were answered. Perhaps focusing solely on the attitudes element and examining the behaviours in later studies would have been beneficial and allowed me to produce a more thorough and conclusive report.
Another element I would change would be the ambiguity around my questions. During my research I recognised that there were some areas in which the questions on my survey didn’t provide adequate options for responses. For example, the question ‘I use fabric bags rather than plastic bags when doing my grocery shopping’ should have had options of ‘always’, ‘sometimes’ and ‘never’ rather than ‘true’, ‘false’ and ‘don’t know’. This would have allowed for more accurate results and increased the validity of my research.
Conducting this assignment has enabled me to understand the ethical, organisational and academic considerations of effective research. Through an engagement with principles of socially responsible research design, reflexivity and integrity, I was able to produce an informative research paper that hopefully has the potential to stimulate conversations and change in regard to the environment.
Bowles, K 2017, ‘Integrity’, Google slides, BCM212, The University of Wollongong, delivered 12th April 2017
Finlay, L 2002, ‘Negotiating the swap: the opportunity and challenge of reflexivity in research practice’, Sage Publications, viewed 24th May 2017, <http://journals.sagepub.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1177/146879410200200205>
The Human Research Ethics Committee- University of Wollongong, 2017, University of Wollongong, viewed 27th May 2017, <http://www.uow.edu.au/research/ethics/UOW009378.html>
Korenman, S 2006, ‘Research Integrity’, The Office of Research Integrity, viewed 9th May 2017, <https://ori.hhs.gov/education/products/ucla/chapter1/page02.htm>
Shahhnazarian, D, Hagemann, J, Aburto, M, Rose, S 2013, ‘Informed Consent in Human Subjects Research, Office for Protection of Research Subjects: University of Southern California, viewed 10th April 2017, <http://oprs.usc.edu/files/2013/04/Informed-Consent-Booklet-4.4.13.pdf
Taylor-Powell, S & Renner, M 2003, ‘Analyzing Qualitative Data’, University of Wisconsin Program Development and Evaluation, viewed 13th May 2017, <https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8ee4/a0c8532720200bb4359cf5a3741fac60ca74.pdf>
Walsh, R.A. 1995, The Approach of the Human Science Researcher: Implications for the Practice of Qualitative Research’, The Humanistic Psychologist, vol. 23, p. 333-344, viewed 24th May 2017
Photo credit: Joe Brusky https://www.flickr.com/photos/40969298@N05/15341467982/