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Get Your Geek On: Ethics

Ethics by Tracy Wilson

As I reviewed the studies presented in this unit, I tried to be surprised with the results.  However, I am not.  Working in child welfare showed me a side of humanity that I do not care to see again.  I saw depravity on so many levels.  So, to be surprised by the studies is difficult for me.  For example, the experiments conducted during World War II are utterly heartbreaking, but rather than being surprised, I am moved by the human indignity.  Still, I often wonder if the individuals who conducted the experiments truly believed they were making groundbreaking strides.  For instance, when Dr. Zimbardo was interviewed for a video entitled The Stanford Prison Experiment (2011), he admitted that during the experiment, he did not see anything wrong with what he was doing.  It was not until his girlfriend shed light on the situation, telling Dr. Zimbardo he was engaging in unethical, damaging activity.  Nonetheless, when Dr. Zimbardo completed a presentation for TEDTalks (2008), he showed a great deal of remorse for his experiment.


Why does dishonesty seem so widespread?  To answer this question, I looked at research, but I also know where I stand on the subject.  I believe that people are dishonest because they can be.  The lack of accountability is problematic.  I also think a person’s willingness to be dishonest goes back to familial influences.

According to an article written by Olafson, Schraw, and Kehrwald (2014), moral decline is correlated with dishonesty.  Also, their research showed that dishonesty is too widespread (Olafson, Schraw, & Kehrwald, 2014), giving credence to my claim that people are dishonest simply because they can be.  Further to that point is that peers actually encourage dishonesty (Olafson et al., 2014), which validates my assertion that there are familial factors at work, or in this case, social components driving dishonest behavior.

Roles and Responsibilities at Capella

Entering the Ph.D. program requires me to be a researcher.  I am charged with exploring subjects that can help the general population.  To do so, I must minimize risk and do no harm.  Although the research may be beneficial, I have to evaluate the danger to the research participants.

I will operate in accordance with the American Psychological Association Code of Conduct (2017) as well as Capella University’s (2016) research standards.  I will provide informed consent and ensure confidentiality of all test subjects.  I will present all of the dynamics of the research study both in writing and verbally.  I will act with integrity and ensure that all of the participants have the capacity to understand the experiment.

Utilizing the Standard Operating Procedures (Capella University, 2016) and engaging in Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) will allow me to create experiments with minimal risk.  In addition, I will be responsible for submitting my research plan to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval.  Because my research will consist of human subjects, I will need the approval of the IRB to proceed.  Working within the confines of their rules, I will ensure that my proposal is ethical regarding participant selection and that the risk to subjects is minimal.

Personal Values, Safeguarding against Ethical Dilemmas, & Unfair Judgments

It is not my place to judge others, so I accept all creeds, beliefs, orientations, religious practices, and so on.  Still, I value hard work and determination.  Therefore, I have a difficult time dealing with procrastinators and people who feel they are deserving of all concessions in classroom work.  I can see where my feelings in this area might be a problem.  For example, it frustrates me when students skip class and then want to make up a test.  In accordance with University policy, I require a doctor’s excuse.  Many of them come to me without one and still expect me to bend the rules for them.  I could judge those students harshly based on the situation.  I do not like that because I do my best to be accepting of everyone’s circumstances.  The aforementioned situation would not have bothered me ten years ago.  Sommers-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan (2007) point out, values change over time which means that judgments change, too. 

As I read Sommers-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan (2007), I realized that I possess another fault that could create problems.  I have always been someone who offers help to others. I tend to go above and beyond.  I always light the way for my students to take the path toward success. However, some of them do not.  I genuinely try to help them, but in doing so, I weaken them.  For instance, I tried to give opportunities for extra credit during my Psychology 1101 course, but the students who were flunking did not take advantage of the situation.  Ironically, the students with A’s and B’s achieved the extra credit goals.  My motivations were pure.  The hard lesson is that I have to allow my students to procrastinate and even fail.  When that happens, I have to resist making unfair judgments.  They have the freedom to choose success or failure.

Another situation I need to rectify is the fact that I share personal examples in lectures.  Again, my motivations are pure.  I want to show students how the things we discuss in class can be transferred to real-world situations.  According to Sommers-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan (2007), I need to be a little more cautious of this practice.  By sharing too much, I create an environment where my students can feel too comfortable.  I did not realize that this diminishes the professional boundary.

I intend to use sound research models with objective data collection and analysis practices to guard participants from unfair judgments.  Procedures can be utilized to shield students and participants.  Informed consent and protection against conflict of interest are two of the tools I will use.

Informed consent protects me from vulnerability as a practitioner, but most of all, it protects research subjects.  Providing informed consent will allow the participants to feel comfortable and fully understand the experiment.  They will be given the information regarding the research procedure and how long the study is expected to last.  Also, possible risks and benefits will be thoroughly explained and provided in writing.  Confidentiality will also be included.

Protection against a conflict of interest is very important.  As I said, most of my subjects will be students.  I will have to look outside of the school I teach for to find volunteers for the research.  My students and I have a wonderful rapport, but I would not want that relationship to cause problems.  In fact, it is imperative that I avoid multiple relationships.  It impairs my ability to be objective.


The burden I carry as a researcher comes with a cost if ethics are not respected.  Thankfully, there are guidelines put in place to protect me as well as participants.  Despite the fact that dishonesty seems to be running rampant, I do not have to fall victim to such a fate.  I can use the standards put in place by the American Psychology Association and Capella University to ensure experimental integrity.  Although I am sure I will face more ethical dilemmas in my lifetime, this class is helping me discover ways to deal with those roadblocks.


American Psychological Association.  (2017).  Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct.  Retrieved from

Capella University.  (2016, April).  Doctoral Programs.  Retrieved from

Olafson, L., Schraw, G., & Kehrwald, N.  (2014).  Academic dishonesty:  Behaviors, sanctions, and retention of adjudicated college students.  Journal of College Student Development, 55(7), 661-674.  doi:  10.1353/csd.2014.0066

Sommers-Flanagan, R., & Sommers-Flanagan, J.  (2007).  Professional identity development:  Values and definitions.  In Becoming an ethical helping professional:  Cultural and philosophical foundations (pp.  81-105).  Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley.

Zimbardo, P.  (2008, February).  The psychology of evil [Video file].  Retrieved from

Tagged: doctoral journey, doctoral work, Educational Psychology
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