Ethics is critical to the research conducted by various authors. By engaging in ethical research processes, researchers have a better chance of providing insight into problems and solutions. This paper discusses the ethical principles of a business research project related to substance abuse.
Business Research Project
In a research article by Aletraris, Paino, Edmond et al (2014), researchers explore the efficacy of music and art therapy to treat substance abuse disorders (p. 190). The researchers hypothesize that combined influences may enhance the effects of music and art therapy on patients with substance abuse disorders, which are considered a form of complementary or alternative medical therapy. In this article, the researchers suggest the use of complementary therapy is more common in women and adolescents, with art therapy slightly more successful than music therapy among patients treated with combined forms of therapy. Combined therapies for substance abuse disorders may include attending a traditional 12-step addiction program (Aletraris, Paino & Edmond, et al 2014).

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What was the business research article or research project?
What unethical business research practices should be avoided in this project?
This research project focused primarily on the benefits of art and music therapy on women and adolescents that may have or be at risk for substance abuse disorders or addiction. Many unethical practices must be avoided, including the risk of including participants without their full consent prior to treatment. Consent and information about research is important for all study participants, but particularly for adolescents or minors that may be participating in treatment or experimental studies.

Which particular parties involved in the research could face injury? What injuries may occur?
Injury may occur to the participants in this study who believe a combination of a 12-step program, combined with some form of art or music therapy, will be healed of addiction or substance abuse. The researchers have a duty to expressly address the unique needs of patients, including factors like whether the proportion of women to men in a research study may affect outcomes or the likelihood of using alternative forms of therapy. In a similar research article, Mahmood, Vaughn, Mancini & Fu (2013) find that research participants are more at risk if they come from a minority or stereotyped population. The second study observes recovery among prison inmates or former inmates, another potentially marginalized population.
If a community adopts the treatment advice provided by researchers like Aletraris, Paino & Edmond et al (2004), there is a risk that the treatment will not work resulting in injury or even death. This is truer for patients that may suffer from comorbidities that may be associated with a substance abuse disorder. Some examples of comorbid disorders may include mental or mood disorders (Mahmood, Vaugh, Mancini & Fu, 2013). To prevent injury, it is critical that researchers explain the purpose, scope, and expected outcomes of the study to participants, including minor participants.

How could unethical behavior in this research affect the organization, individual, society?
Mahmood, Vaughn, Mancini & Fu (2013) note that unethical research may compromise the validity of results. Further, society may come to believe in principles or therapy that is not ethically safe or valid (Mahmood, Vaugh, Mancini & Fu, 2013). The behavior may also result in stereotypes against certain populations, including women and adolescents who are described in the original research as more likely to succumb to substance abuse disorders. The research conducted by Aletraris, Paino, Edmond et al (2014) involved less than 200 participants. Thus, the research is not widely representative of a larger demographic that might suffer from substance abuse or related disorders.

A study that is purportedly random, as was the case for this study, must provide a measure of validity regarding the sampling methods used by the researchers. If the researchers compromise the nature of the study design, by failing to sample a truly random population, the results of the study may prove invalid. Study participants should also be aware of any risks involved from participating in the study, or from lack of ongoing support once the study is complete and participants are discharged from their service.

How could unethical behavior be monitored or resolved if found?
There are many avenues or unethical behavior. To resolve the issue of consent, researchers should ensure that all study participants understand clearly the purpose of the study and the expectations of researchers. For minors participating in a study, researchers may obtain consent from a legal guardian or parent, one that may be able to interpret study meanings. If participants are charged a fee for participating, in the hope they will cure a potentially life-threatening condition, researchers have an obligation to pay back or compensate participants for their time in some way.

If the researchers were to attempt to generalize the study findings with a small study, unethical behavior could be corrected through a simple admission of the small and limited sample size. The researchers would need to explain this limitation to the target audience, and to participants, so they realize the effects of research may not be permanent or generalized to the public at large. Compensating patients in some way for their time may be a tool that researchers may use to inspire study participants, or to compensate study participants for their time regardless of whether the treatment proves beneficial. In some studies, participants may be offered free treatment and follow-up care in lieu of, or in addition to, any compensation the researchers may have available to offer.

  • Aletraris, L., Paino, M., Edmond, M.B. et al (2014). The use of art and music therapy in
    substance abuse treatment programs. Journal of Addiction Nursing, 25(4): 190-196. Retrieved from:
  • Mahmood, S.T., Vaugh, M.G., Mancini M. & Fu, Q. (2013). Gender disparity in utilization rates
    of substance abuse services among female ex-offenders: a population-based analysis. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 39(5): 332.