How to “describe the ethical considerations in reporting the results” in Paper 3

Travis Dixon Revision and Exam Preparation Leave a Comment

Psychologists have to be aware of how their behaviour can affect participants even AFTER their study is conducted.

The following has been adapted from our IB revision textbook, now available as an online textbook.

IB Psychology’s Paper 3 will have a question on ethical considerations. One of these questions asks you to “describe the ethical considerations in reporting the results” of the study summarized in the stimulus material. Let’s look at how you can score full marks (3/3) for this question.

The most important thing to know about Question 2 in Paper 3 is that it’s worth 6 marks and requires you to write about 6 different ethical considerations. The question is broken into two parts, so write about 3 considerations in response to each part.

There are two possible ethics questions you might be asked (see image from the guide below). This one is the harder of the two. The first part of the question about reporting results is worth three marks. So you should explain how three of the following considerations would be relevant in reporting results. These are listed here in order of relevance to reporting results.

  • Anonymity (e.g. removing names from published results)
  • Right to withdraw (e.g. right to withdraw data)
  • Informed consent (and parental consent) (e.g. informing people before the study how the results will be reported)
  • Debriefing (e.g. telling people how the results will be reported)
  • Disclosure (e.g. of conflicts of interests in the research)

These considerations all relate to the golden rule of ethics in psychology – “do no harm.” The term for this is beneficence (from the Belmont Report).

If you’re really stuck for a point to make, you could also explain the ethical considerations of journalists in their reporting of the results, not just the psychologists (Learn more). You could also talk about non fabricating the data like Diederik Stapel. Although, I would leave this as a last resort as the chances of it being relevant to the stimulus are minimal.

On that note, it’s a good idea to explain at least one of these using details from the stimulus. For example, you explain how anonymity is important and what harm might come to a participant if their data is not made anonymous, like how they might feel embarrassed.

Read more:


At time of writing (October, 2021) only three Paper 3 exams have been administered (May 2019 and Nov 2019 and 2020). All three of these exams used the other version of the ethics question. The only example question and mark scheme we have to go from is from the specimen papers published on MyIB or those we have made ourselves. You can check out my example Paper 3 answers that respond to this practice Paper 3. 

How to Revise

Revise using flashcards to review the considerations and use practice exams (see below) to try applying this information in response to stimulus papers. Make sure you can answer the question in about 20 minutes or less.


If you’re a student of mine I want you to clearly label your answer with two headings that distinguish the two parts to the question (Applied Ethics and Further Ethics would be good headings). Then I would love to see six distinct paragraphs – one for each consideration. This will help me mark your work and will also help you ensure you’ve hit all six points.

From The Guide

From the IB Guide, pg 57. You will be asked one of these six mark questions. Both are written in two parts, requiring three ethical considerations each.

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