Video modules help student researchers learn to ethically conduct research with human subjects

Students learning to conduct research with human subjects are faced with many challenges – learning new methods, setting up interviews and/or travel, dealing with research technologies, learning about new cultures, and filling out IRB forms, just to name a few. In the midst of all of these activities, it becomes increasingly important that students learn to think critically and ethically about the people they interact with. The following animation (“It’s a Small World After All“), based on a true story, shows how the blog of a student researcher ended up destroying relationships and future opportunities for the student after the blog was discovered by his host family.

This video is part of a new series of freely usable, shareable video modules available on the Duke Ethics & Practice website ( Through support provided by CIT, Alexandra Cooper, Associate Director for Education and Training at SSRI, and Lorna Hicks, Director of Human Subjects Protection at Duke’s ORS, worked with Cultural Anthropology doctoral student Dwayne Dixon to create 18 video clips grouped into several categories, including: informed consent, protecting information, public and private space, international research, ethical image making and skill building. The website also includes links to written resources and templates for consent forms and recording permission releases.

Along with a few videos that help detail and explain key research processes, such as “How to Ask: The Oral Consent Process,” the site also features faculty, students and other researchers telling their stories and sharing their experiences from their own fieldwork. In “Sensitive Subjects: Cuba’s Underground Economy” Duke cultural anthropologist Heather Settle talks about her fieldwork in Cuba and “describes how once in the field she realized that many of her respondents were engaged in activities classified as illegal within Cuba and that she would need to adapt her approach to ensure that she protected those individuals as well.” In the video “Finding A Place,” Duke undergraduate Marquise Eloi  “talks about her experience working in Uganda at a clinic where as a black American, she was perceived by many as being Ugandan and not as a member of the Duke student group (she was with).”

In the video below: “Cameras & Research: Tokyo Skateboarders,” Dwayne Dixon “discusses using video as a tool to conduct ethnographic research of skateboarders in Tokyo.”

The Ethics & Practice site was “created for use by students new to research with human subjects and (for) the faculty who advise them.” Faculty interested in using the resources on the Ethics & Practice site can share the resources in several ways. The simplest way may be to just provide the URL ( to students. Once there, students can sort videos by categories or use the built-in search to find a particular video. Faculty with access to their own site (in WordPress, Sakai, etc) might also choose to embed specific videos alongside their own course materials. Since all of the videos produced for the series exist on YouTube, this process is fairly simple:

1- choose the video you want to use in your own course/site

2- click the YouTube button (see image) to pop open the YouTube site with the video.

3- click ‘Share’ under the video. Get the URL (for adding to WordPress) or copy the ‘old’ embed code (for adding to a Sakai HTML page).

Each video has been licensed with Creative Commons and is free to share. For more information visit the Ethics & Practice website.