Principlism in Practice: Ethics in Survey Research

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Alternative to formal and abstract normative theories, such as virtue ethics, deontology, consequentialism, and ethics of care, principlism offers a practical method to ethical decision-making. This chapter examines principlism in practice, as implied in contemporary recommendations for integrity in survey research, and social research more broadly. After reviewing professional codes of conduct relevant to survey researchers, the chapter illustrates the relevance of principlism to thinking about common ethical problems during survey research. Instead of providing a checklist, the chapter demonstrates that principlism helps researchers choose the least among evils. The chapter considers critiques of principlism, concluding that social research has yet to reach the normative and descriptive achievements of applied ethics, and principlism particularly, in other professional fields.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe SAGE Handbook of Survey Development and Application
EditorsLucy R. Ford, Terri A. Scandura
Number of pages27
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSAGE Publications
Publication date2023
ISBN (Print)9781529758498
ISBN (Electronic)9781529618327, 9781529618624, 9781529618020
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Ethics
  • Survey research
  • Codes of conduct
  • Principlism
  • Principles
  • Autonomy
  • Non-maleficence
  • Beneficence
  • Justice
  • Integrity

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