Research Ethics in Social Science (PHD105)

The aim of the course is to strengthen students’ awareness of moral challenges in social research, and their ability to meet them.

Course description for study year 2024-2025. Please note that changes may occur.


Course code




Credits (ECTS)


Semester tution start

Spring, Autumn

Number of semesters


Exam semester


Language of instruction



The course focuses on three groups of challenges, corresponding to three kinds of moral obligations on the part of social researchers:

  • Obligations to the research participants (e.g., obligations with regard to privacy and consent).
  • Obligations to the research community (e.g., obligations with regard to transparency and honesty).
  • Obligations to the society at large (e.g., obligations with regard to the use of one’s research, and to one’s public role as an expert).

The consideration of each group of obligations will be guided by three questions:

  1. What are the obligations concerned? - Answering this question will involve discussion of various proposed guidelines for Research Ethics in social science, such as those provided by the National Research Ethics Committees.
  2. What do the obligations amount to in practical terms? - Answering this question will involve discussion of what, exactly, the obligations require in concrete cases.
  3. What is the normative basis for the obligations? - Answering this question will involve discussion of possible sources of justification for the obligations, such as the ethical principles proposed by consequentialist and deontological ethical theories.

Learning outcome

Upon completion of the course, students should have achieved the following outcomes:


  • Advanced knowledge of moral issues in social science relating to the research participants, the research community, and society at large.
  • Advanced knowledge of commonly recognized obligations of social researchers of relevance to these issues.
  • Advanced knowledge of possible normative bases for these obligations.


  • Advanced ability to identify moral issues in one’s own and others’ social research relating to the research participants, the research community, and society at large.
  • Advanced ability to identify the commonly recognized obligations relevant to these issues, and determine what, exactly, they amount to in concrete cases.
  • Advanced ability to critically discuss and evaluate candidate normative bases for these obligations.

General competence

  • Advanced competence in subjecting one’s own and others’ research to critical scrutiny with regard to its underlaying assumptions and consequences.
  • Advanced competence in recognizing and conforming to the practical norms of science in general and social science in particular.

Required prerequisite knowledge

Participants must be enrolled in a PhD programme.

Recommended prerequisites

Examen philosophicum or equivalent.


Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Home exam 1/1 Passed / Not Passed

Individual paper of 4000 words (+/- 10%) in English on a self-chosen topic approved by the instructor. The paper must be submitted six weeks after the end of the course and will be evaluated as Pass/Fail.

Coursework requirements

At least one presentation. Active participation in discussions.

Course teacher(s)

Course coordinator:

Tarjei Mandt Larsen

Method of work

The course is given over one week, and involves the following methods of work:

  • Lecture attendance
  • Classroom discussion
  • Individual presentation
  • Self-study

Open for

Admission to single doctoral courses Single Course Admission to PhD-Courses Health and Medicine - PhD Programme PhD programme in Social Sciences Educational Sciences and Humanities - PhD

Course assessment

There must be an early dialogue between the course supervisor, the student union representative and the students. The purpose is feedback from the students for changes and adjustments in the course for the current semester.In addition, a digital subject evaluation must be carried out at least every three years. Its purpose is to gather the students experiences with the course.


Search for literature in Leganto