SOC210 – PhD’s Guide to Research Ethics


This week, we’re bringing the PhD’s Guide series back to cover research ethics! Nowadays, researchers must carefully balance the potential knowledge a study can collect with the potential harm they may cause to the people participating in studies. But that definitely hasn’t always been the case! The treatment of Henrietta Lacks and studies like The Tearoom Trade are perfect examples of research ethics gone wrong. Tune in to learn more, and check out our website ( to read about the various studies we discussed in the episode.


Find the transcript for this episode here! Thank you so so much to Melinda Lloyd for transcribing and supporting us!


  1. What do we mean by research ethics?
    • Ethics is concerned with issues of right and wrong, the choices that people make, and how they justify them. Research ethics is a balance of potential knowledge – the goal is to increase knowledge – and potential harm – the goal is to minimize or eliminate harm. (Paraphrased from George Ritzer’s textbook, Introduction to Sociology)
  2. The American Sociological Association’s blurb about ethics in sociology
  3. A relevant earlier episode that has to do with ethics is our PhD’s Guide to Research Methodology, which you can listen to here!
  4. We discussed how living in poverty can change a person’s brain, which is discussed really well in this article by Tara Garcia Mathewson in The Atlantic titled, “How Poverty Changes the Brain
  5. We talk about the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) on our “Obedience, Whaddup?” episode, which you can find here:
  6. Some informative sources on the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment
  7. “On the Run” by Alice Goffman-which Ellen and Omar are fans of regardless of da haters!
  8. Critiques of Goffman’s book, which are worth a read:
  9. We also mentioned lack of privacy and consent in the Laud Humphrey’s study The Tearoom Trade
  10. “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
  11. Trump serving Clemson athletes fast food at the White House
  12. “Massive Fornite Security Breach Allowed Hackers to Take Over Accounts” from WTHR published Jan 17, 2019.
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