In purely lexical terms, the word ethics comes from the Greek word ethikos which means ‘based on habit’. In present terminology, ethics is taken to be a branch of philosophy which judges individual and collective actions as being right, wrong, good or bad. In business and professional fields like finance, construction, public relations, advertising and many others, the application of ethical principles is said to be a part of the good practices which create and increase credibility for the business interest (Alexandra & Woodruff, 1990).
The field of human services is not exempt from the practice of ethics and there is an entirely different branch of ethics connected with the actions of those who interact with individuals in need. In fact, even those who have no contact with others and are only conducting research on the various topics under the field have to follow ethical and legal guidelines that govern how research can be done on any particular topic (Scanlon, 2000). Thus, every individual from researchers to those who actually provide services have to follow ethical guidelines.
Therefore, it is important to understand what ethical guidelines are in actuality. Velasquez et. al. (1987) report that when people on the street were inquired about the meaning of ethics, they said that ethics have to do with internal feelings of what is right and wrong or that ethics are religious beliefs or that ethics are legal requirements. People also considered ethics to be acceptable behavior as per the rules of society and some simply did not know what it meant.
While the responses stated above may come naturally given the context the word ethics is so often used in. It must be clarified that ethics have nothing to do with the internal feelings of a person (Alexandra & Woodruff, 1990).