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Quick guide to course design

Do you teach research ethics? Here is a brief overview of relevant topics and resources that you can use in your courses.

The Research Ethics Library is a teaching resource where you can find articles written by experts in the field, as well as discussion examples, literature references and other resources in the area of research ethics.

For all subject areas involving research on humans, the relationship to research participants requires ethical reflection. This should be reflected in an appropriate course design. Especially important topics that should be covered are:

Regarding challenges related to duty of secrecy, the following topic could also be covered in the course material:

Depending on the type of project researchers wish to carry out, prior approval of the research will be required in many cases. The Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD) and the Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REK) will be especially relevant in this context, depending on the research field. Students should be made aware of this in courses on research ethics.

The group to which research participants belong is often very important, and this is a topic that should be addressed in courses on research ethics.

If one of the relevant groups consists of children, the following topics might also be relevant to include in the course:

To varying degrees, research has a responsibility not only vis-á-vis research participants, but also in relation to society and the environment. This is also an issue that requires reflection on the part of the researcher and student. The issues of greatest importance in a teaching context will depend largely on the field and the project.

A critical aspect of research for most researchers is the writing and publication phase. This also raises fundamental ethical questions about:

A research environment consists of relationships, and among these is the relationship between the supervisor and the student, which should be a relevant topic in most courses on research ethics.

Sometimes an individual researcher must go to great lengths to remedy a situation he or she believes to be unethical. In this case, ethical challenges are related to assuming the role of the whistleblower, a subject which students should know something about.

Here are a few tips to conclude:

For more articles on specific subjects that may be helpful in designing your course, please go to the Research Ethics Library


The national research ethics committees prepare ethical guidelines for research which describe good practice for various subject areas and fields. These are also useful teaching tools.

The Resources for Research Ethics Education website has a lot of excellent material that you can use in your courses, including links to many good case studies.

Please note that discussion examples are published for each article listed above, which can serve as an excellent teaching tool (translation pending).

We would like your feedback on this resource, especially how it could be expanded. Please send your comments to