How to “describe the ethical considerations that were applied in the study.”

Travis DixonRevision and Exam Preparation

Prepare well and Paper 3 should be EASY marks.

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

In the new IB Psychology Paper 3, you may be asked to “describe the ethical considerations that were applied in the study.” This post explains how. 

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.

The “ethical considerations” mainly refer to the common guidelines provided by ethics committees of various countries. These include:

  • Informed consent (and parental consent)
  • Debriefing
  • Anonymity
  • Right to withdraw
  • Approval from an ethics review board
  • Any use of deception is justified (and rectified in debriefing)

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).

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You must describe three ethical considerations that were applied in the study. Look very carefully at the summary of the study you’re given. There will definitely be three relevant points to make. Here’s one paragraph from the May 2019 exam. The debriefing is stated obviously whereas the second considerations is a little harder to find and the third is really difficult and the third one almost impossible. Can you find all three?

Can you find all three ethical considerations from this paragraph? Answers at the bottom of this post.

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.

Answers from May 2019

From the mark scheme:

“For describing the ethical considerations that were applied in the study: [1] per relevant point made, up to a maximum of [3]. (1) The participants were debriefed after they had completed the study.” (2) The researchers gave the participants a consent form to sign before the start of the study, in line with ethical guidelines in psychological research. (3) The lecture was based on an ethically neutral (non-sensitive) topic.