Syllabus - Ethics in Field Investigations

Course Description

This 4-week course provides a discussion of the ethical issues that can arise in psi research and field investigations and introduces practices to ensure ethical considerations are being addressed. Topics will include the basic foundation of ethics including an introduction to Institutional Review Boards and the ethical guidelines used by professional researchers. In addition, examples will be provided from real-life investigations and situations that are often encountered by field investigators.

Besides paranormal investigations, investigations also include exploring reincarnation, and practices related to mediumship and after-death communications.

Course Objectives

This course will introduce students to the topics related to ethics of investigations and research that involves animals or human participants. The general topic of ethics will be introduced, and students will be provided with the tools necessary to create a document for ethical review. In addition, the terminology related to ethics and an Institutional Review Board (IRB) will provide examples that will enable students to create professional documents for review.

In addition to the basic concepts and processes for ethical review, examples will be provided to stimulate discussion of real-world situations that may introduce ethical dilemas.

Course Outline

  1. Week 1: Introduction to Ethics and Guidelines (Kruth)
    • What are ethics?
    • APA Ethical Guidelines
    • General Principles
    • Confidentiality & Informed Consent
    • PA Ethical Guidelines
    • Special topics for parapsychologists
  2. Week 2: Professional Ethical Reviews (Kruth)
    • Creating your plan
      • Documenting the experience of participants on location
      • Considering informed consent
      • Deception & other special situations
    • What is an IRB?
    • Working with an IRB and adapting to conditions
    • Developing a review document
      • Addendums
      • Making changes to your design
  3. Week 3: Ethics in investigations (Auerbach)
    • Ethical issues in investigations
    • Ethics investigating mediumship and reincarnation cases
    • Ethics of working with psychic/medium practitioners in cases
    • Ethical issues with respect to resolutions
    • Ethical considerations when writing/speaking about individual cases
    • Examples
  4. Week 4: Consent forms and Ethics in media interactions (Auerbach)
    • Consent forms: why use them
    • Consent forms: what needs to be in them (with an example)
    • Legal issues with respect to field investigation
    • Ethical issues that come up with requests from the Media
    • Ethical considerations when contacting the Media
    • TV and other release forms: the good, the bad, and the ugly (with examples)

Course Materials

Various articles provides by the instructor and provided for download throughout the course.

Course Activities

  • Students will be expected to view the class broadcasts or the recordings of the classes each week.
  • Students will be expected to participate in weekly discussion forums and activities. Each student will be expected to provide an original posting each week and to respond to at least one other student in the discussion forums. Greater participation in this area will be considered during class evaluations.
  • FINAL Project: Students will develop their own ethical design document based on your own proposed investigation or a specific example that will be provided. The document should be just a few pages in length and must conform to the format and outline provided in the courseroom. The final project will be due 10 days after the final class is broadcast.

Evaluation and Grading

Students who are taking the course for a grade will be assessed using a letter grade based on the standard letter grade format.
A – 90 - 100.
B – 80 – 89.
C – 70 – 79.
D – 60 – 69.
F – Below 60.

Participation in the forums is a large component of the grading, and substantive postings are necessary to get full credit for each discussion topic.

The following activities will be considered to contribute to the courses as follows:

Discussions (Total 40%)

  • Week 1 (10%)
  • Week 2 (10%)
  • Week 3 (10%)
  • Week 4 (10%)

Final Project(60%)