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Course content

The doctoral degree course in research ethics focuses on the responsibility of individuals to apply an ethical approach in their own doctoral degree project.

Ethical norms and values are elements integrated in all sciences rather than being imposed on research by external bodies. Ethical reflection characterizes scientific work, from the initial tenuous start of the research process to final publication and dissemination to the public. This is not only out of consideration for the research subjects but also regard for colleagues and the general public. Short lectures and seminars will invite reflection on research ethics in relation to one’s own and others’ research.

The course consists of a combination of lectures, seminars and written papers, and active participation is a prerequisite.

Learning outcome

The teaching consists of three hours of lectures and three hours of seminars. The lectures are based on the syllabus while the seminars are based on memoranda from the individual participants in which relevant research ethics topics linked to their own research project are presented. Candidates also make use of the "Guidelines for research ethics in the social sciences, law, and the humanities" (2006) issued by the National Committee for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and the Humanities (NESH).

These provide a good overview of the relevant norms and are firmly anchored in the Norwegian research system. The preface gives an account of the similarities and differences between research ethics and law. The guidelines are divided into six groups (A-F):

  • The value of research, its freedom and social relevance. It is ethically challenging to have the responsibility for ensuring that research is both of scientific interest and of use to society. At a general philosophy of science level all research is subject to the same ethical obligations (scientific integrity). Examples of common standards are requirements for verifiable documentation, impartiality, objectivity and consistent reasoning.
  • Respect for individuals. Many people think only of this type as ”research ethics”, e.g. as formulated in the obligation to avoid harm or to obtain free and informed consent. The NESH pamphlet sets out several kinds of guidelines. Nevertheless, there is a large number of important guidelines on respect for individuals (15 out of 47 guidelines).
  • Regard for groups and institutions. It is not only respect for individuals that is important but also regard for institutions, groups and the local community. Topics of relevance in this connection include business secrets and national security interests.
  • Norms in the research community. Mandatory requirements for scientific honesty and the ban on plagiarism are of major importance. There is room for improvement in Norwegian social science regarding reference practice. Note Guideline 29 in particular.
  • Contract research. Research ethics also apply to contract research, including when the principal is a public entity. See the debate in autumn 2010 about contract research and reports for public entities.
  • Science communication. Note the definition of science communication in Guideline 42. The purpose is not simply to get PR for one’s own doctoral thesis or research community (which is a legitimate aim, but a different kind of task).

At the end of the course candidates must be able to:

  • account for primary ethical research norms. Science is regulated by ethical values and norms, both internally in the research community and externally in relation to the research subjects and to those who utilize the research findings;

  • identify relevant ethical research themes and challenges in own and others’ research;

  • uphold the norms for practising good research ethics with a clearer understanding. The course will contribute to a broader understanding and practice of key ethical values in research such as objectivity, impartiality, respect for the integrity of the research subject, scientific sensitivity and good reference practice.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

SV9102 Research Ethics is compulsory for all candidates on the PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo, with the exception of candidates from the Department of Psychology who follow a separate course in research ethics. Deadline for registering for spring 2018 is February 15th. Candidates can apply in Studentweb.

Please note: Prior to the start of the course, candidates must submit a memorandum on research ethics. The memo must account for one or more of the ethical research topics in their own doctoral thesis based on "Guidelines for research ethics in the social sciences, law, and the humanities" (NESH 2006), and this must form the basis of the presentation and discussion in the seminars on research ethics.

The memo must be between 800 and 2,000 words and must be uploaded in Canvas. The memo must be submitted as a pdf file.

Deadline for submission: March 23rd 2018 at 2pm.

External candidates cannot take this course. You must be admitted to the programme to be able to sit the examination.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Mandatory prerequisites

Admission to the course is dependent on admission to the PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo.

Candidates from other departments at UiO may be admitted if there is free capacity.

Overlapping courses

Candidates in the psychology programme option must take PSY9002 Research Ethics instead of SV9102 Research Ethics.

Candidates who can document a course/teaching/presentation at the same level and with a scope equivalent to the faculty course in research ethics can apply for exemption from the course, All applications for exemption or postponement are dealt with by the chair of the programme board for the PhD degree at the Faculty of Social Sciences, and should be submitted to the Faculty.


The teaching combines short lectures, plenary discussions and seminars and covers two sessions, each of three hours duration. The seminars are based on the memos submitted before the start of the course. All participants will be asked in advance to give a short 5-minute presentation of their own memo for the rest of the group. The chair of the seminar and the others in the group may also give additional comments. 

Access to teaching

If you have completed and received approval of the compulsory teaching component, you are not entitled to further instruction. If you have been admitted to the course, but have not completed or received approval of the compulsory teaching component, you are entitled to new instruction when there is free capacity.


The draft memo will be discussed during the seminar component of the course, and after the course the memo must be revised on the basis of the input received. The final revised version of the memo must be between 800 and 2,000 words and must be submitted for evaluation ('Pass' /'Fail') in Canvas.

Deadline for submission: May 25th 2018 at 2pm. NB: Approved mandatory attendance is a prerequisite for submitting the answer paper.

If you have difficulties submitting/retrieving the memoranda please contact Higher Executive Officer Sverre Gustavsen at the Department of Psychology.


Language of examination

The research memorandum must be submitted in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Spring and autumn


Spring and autumn

Teaching language