Doing Good with Integrity:
Training on Ethical Field Research for NGOs

Welcome to the ” “Doing Good with Integrity” training guide! As field researchers, we have the privilege of collecting data that can bring about positive change in communities. But we also have the responsibility to collect this data ethically and responsibly. This digital brochure is designed to equip you with the knowledge and tools to conduct ethical field research with integrity.

Field surveys are an important tool for collecting data in many research disciplines. However, researchers must always consider ethical implications while conducting research. Ethical considerations ensure that the research is conducted in a safe, respectful, and responsible manner, and that the rights and dignity of research participants are protected. Here are some ethical considerations that researchers should keep in mind during field surveys.

With the help of this brochure during your next field visit, you will:

1. Understand the importance of ethical research practices
2. Develop a clear framework for ethical data collection
3. Be equipped to navigate ethical challenges in the field
4. Ensure the safety and well-being of research participants
5. Create responsible and ethical research outputs

In this digital brochure, we have divided field team’s responsibilities into three broad categories as follows:

A. Responsibility towards all persons involved in or affected by research

In this section, we will explore ethical considerations in field research and provide you with the tools to develop an ethical research framework. We will cover the following topics:

Obtaining Informed Consent

It is crucial to obtain informed consent from research participants before beginning the study. Informed consent means that participants understand the purpose of the research, the procedures involved, the potential risks and benefits, and their rights as research participants. Researchers should obtain written consent from participants before starting the study.

Note: Keep the following points in mind regarding informed consent:

-> The human subjects must be able to refuse participation in a study at any point during the study.
-> When children are involved, consent from both children and their parents is required.
-> The mechanism of informed consent applies only to cases where the research team itself is collecting data, such as through a field survey, because in such cases the research team is directly interacting with the participants.
-> However, in some cases, there is no opportunity for the research team to obtain informed consent. For example, consider cases where the research team only has indirect access to data, such as through call data records (CDR), or administrative data. This does not mean that the right to privacy of individuals is not important in such a scenario. It simply means that the research team must use other mechanisms, such as ensuring confidentiality of sensitive information, which is discussed in the next section.


Researchers must maintain confidentiality of the research participants. Participants have the right to know that their personal information will be kept private and secure. Researchers must protect the anonymity and confidentiality of the participants during the study and after the study is completed. All research assistants (RAs), field coordinators (FCs), and other consultants or interns affiliated with the research team could sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). These agreements should clearly state that they will not share any sensitive information with anyone outside the research team.

Minimizing Risks to Participants

Researchers should take steps to minimize risks to participants during the study. Risks may include physical harm, emotional distress, or loss of privacy. Researchers should implement safety measures and emergency procedures to minimize any potential harm to participants. You can take several concrete steps to minimize risks and deception in your research. These include making changes to your research design, prescreening to identify and eliminate high-risk participants, and providing participants with as much information as possible during informed consent and debriefing.

B. Responsibility towards the research

Data Collection and Storage

Data collected during field surveys must be collected accurately and securely. Researchers should ensure that data is stored in a safe and secure location to prevent unauthorized access. Researchers should also ensure that any data shared with other researchers or institutions is done so in a secure and responsible manner. You could use a locked storage container such as a filing cabinet in a locked office for paper-based personal data; for digital data, password-protected or, preferably, encrypted storage.

Reporting Results

When reporting results, researchers should avoid sharing any identifying information about participants. Researchers should also respect the rights and dignity of participants by accurately reporting the findings of the study without bias. Strive for honesty in all scientific communications. Honestly report data, results, methods and procedures, and publication status. Do not fabricate, falsify, or misrepresent data. Do not deceive colleagues, research sponsors, or the public. If you ever hit a roadblock in reporting accurately, always go back to the original source.

Values, motives and cultural differences

It is important for researchers to respect diverse values and attitudes, and refrain from attributing baseless or disrespectful intentions, unless they are able to provide compelling evidence or justification.

C. Responsibility towards stakeholders (those who commission, fund, or collaborate on research)

Be Truthful!

Honesty in all aspects of research, including in the presentation of research goals, intentions and findings; in reporting on research methods and procedures; in gathering data; in using and acknowledging the work of other researchers; and in conveying valid interpretations and making justifiable claims based on research findings.

Be Rigorous!

Rigour, in line with prevailing disciplinary norms and standards, and in performing research and using appropriate methods; in adhering to an agreed protocol where appropriate; in drawing interpretations and conclusions from the research; and in communicating the results.

Maintain Transparency!

Transparency and open communication in declaring potential competing interests; in the reporting of research data collection methods; in the analysis and interpretation of data; in making research findings widely available, which includes publishing or otherwise sharing negative or null results to recognise their value as part of the research process; and in presenting the work to other researchers and to the public.

Hold them accountable!

Accountability of funders, employers and researchers to collectively create a research environment in which individuals and organisations are empowered and enabled to own the research process. Those engaged with research must also ensure that individuals and organisations are held to account when behaviour falls short of the standards set by this concordat.

D. Mistakes to watch out for!

Avoid research misconduct!

Avoid any practice that involves making up or falsifying data, manipulating data analyses, or misrepresenting results in research reports. It’s a form of academic fraud.

To try understanding how small mistakes have huge implications, here is an example of misconduct (MMR vaccine misinformation)

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and others published a now-debunked paper claiming that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism in children.

Later investigations revealed that they fabricated and manipulated their data to show a nonexistent link between vaccines and autism. Wakefield also neglected to disclose important conflicts of interest, and his medical license was taken away.

This fraudulent work sparked vaccine hesitancy among parents and caregivers. The rate of MMR vaccinations in children fell sharply, and measles outbreaks became more common due to a lack of herd immunity.


In reality, there is no risk of children developing autism from the MMR or other vaccines, as shown by many large studies. Although the paper was retracted, it has actually received thousands of citations.

Avoid ethical let-downs!

To demonstrate the importance of research ethics, here’s a look at this research study that violated human rights in modern history.

The Nazi experiments

Nazi doctors and researchers performed painful and horrific experiments on thousands of imprisoned people in concentration camps from 1942 to 1945.

These experiments were inhumane and resulted in trauma, permanent disabilities, or death in many cases.

The participation of prisoners was always forced, as consent was never sought. Participants often belonged to marginalized communities, including Jewish people, disabled people, and Roma people.


Ethical considerations are critical to conducting responsible and respectful research. Researchers must always keep in mind the ethical implications of their work and take steps to minimize any potential harm to participants. By following these ethical considerations, researchers can conduct field surveys in a safe and responsible manner while protecting the rights and dignity of research participants.

The “Doing Good with Integrity” guide will equip you with the tools and knowledge to conduct ethical field research. By participating in this training, you will not only ensure the safety and well-being of research participants but also create impactful and ethical research outputs. Join us in this creative training program and let’s do good and be good together!

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