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San Diego State University

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Lesson 1: Data Collection Guidelines


This lesson focuses on the fundamental issues of compliance when engaged in survey data collection activities. Beginning with an explanation of where the basic rationale for ensuring protections for humans in any research study, the lesson turns to address these projections as they related to data collection involving surveys. The lesson examines the rationale for ensuring compliance with legal and ethical guidelines and discusses who has responsibility to ensure this compliance.

Lesson Objectives

The lesson addresses the following points:
  1. clarify the basic issue of ensuring protections for subjects in studies involving humans
  2. identify obvious cases where protections where not ensured
  3. state the reasons investigators must be concerned with these protections
  4. specify who has oversight responsibilities for studies involving humans and their roles

Lesson Resources 

Learning Activities

  1. Ethical Guidelines
    1. Prior to the discussion, have students review the first two sources under Supplemental Online Resources.
    2. Have the students reflect on the principles discussed identify which principle is violated in the scenarios presented in the Data Collection Guidelines lesson.
  2. Shared Responsibility
    1. Provide the link to the SDSU Human Subjects in Research Web-based Tutorial and have them set up an account.
    2. Have them complete the first two sections; the second is the Shared Responsibility tutorial.
    3. After examining the “What happens if I don’t apply for IRB approval” have students discuss what may be the implications for themselves, their supervising faculty, and the university if they fail to adhere to the ethical guidelines required for engaging in research on human subjects.

Reflection/Discussion Topics

  1. Which ethical guideline do you believe is the most important when engaged in survey data collection activities?
  2. How might different survey questions violate the ethical principles outlined in the Belmont Report?
  3. Since guidelines are not hard and fast rules, what approaches would help in ensuring one is complying with these ethical guidelines?

Additional Resources

Kennedy, J. M. (2010, May). Ethics codes and survey researchers. Paper presented at Annual meeting of the American association for public opinion research, Montreal. Retrieved from