has approved the following research protocol for use as part of student research projects.  Any student projects that meet the conditions below and which follow the protocol set out need not apply for further ethical approval.  The responsibility for ensuring that the project meets the conditions and uses the protocol that has been pre-approved rests with the student carrying out the research and the supervisor/module coordinator as appropriate.

Student projects which do not fit the conditions of this or one of the other pre-approved protocols may still be undertaken, but will need individual ethical approval from the School REC before the project starts.  This takes an average of two weeks, so you should factor in this time into your project planning.

This protocol can be used for projects with the following characteristics:

Permitted Methods:

Interviews or focus groups with research participants conducted with the aim of collecting data for a student project.

A participant information form (template attached as annex 1) must be completed and given to each research participant in advance of the interview and a copy left with them afterwards.  You should translate the participant information form into the appropriate language if research participants are not fluent in English.  You must store the data securely (password protection for electronic files) and anonymize the data as much as possible.

You must follow the guidance notes on ethical research in the latest version of the course handbook (reproduced as annex 2).

The research may not:

  • Involve payment or other compensation to interviewees
  • Involve the data being used for any other purpose not specified in the consent form


Permitted Topics:

This approval only covers research on non-sensitive topics.  Topics considered sensitive include sexuality, drug use, illegal activities, and any other personal topics with the potential to cause offence or upset.  If your research is commercially sensitive, you must complete a confidentiality agreement.


Permitted Research Participants:

This approval does not cover the participation of the following groups:

  • NHS staff or patients
  • Children (under 18s)
  • Adults with learning disabilities whose ability to consent is impaired

[appendix 1 – Participant Information Sheet]


Information for Participants

Thank you for agreeing to participate in the project.  Your participation is voluntary, and you may change your mind about being involved, or decline to answer a particular question or questions at any time and without giving a reason.

This information sheet is designed to give you full details of the project, its goals, and what you will be asked to do as part of the research.  If you have any questions that are not answered by this information sheet, please ask.

What is the project title?



Who is carrying out the project?

[Your name]


What is the project about?

[Please include a brief, straightforward summary of the objectives of the research



Who is being asked to take part, and why?

[Please include information about how and why participants have been identified / chosen.  You should not name other participants]


What will participants be asked to do?

[Include details of all of the topics you will be asking questions about]


What will happen to the information I provide?

[include information about data storage/retention, as well as how the information provided will be used– extent of anonymity, will direct quotes be used, how will participants be referred to etc]


What will be the outputs or outcomes?

[Give details of the assignment you will write as a result of the research as well as any other purpose for which it may be used.]


Contact details

[Your name, phone, email, postal address]

[Supervisor/module coordinator’s name, phone email, university postal address]


Complaints and governance procedure:

If you wish to complain about the way in which the research is being conducted or have any concerns about the research then in the first instance please contact the [Principal Investigator or supervisor] or the School’s Research Ethics Officer:

[This document should be no more than two sides of A4 at the absolute maximum]

Appendix 2:  Handbook text on Research Ethics

Research Ethics

Some of your assignments may require you to undertake some original or primary research of your own.  If this research involves human participants (for example, through interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, or surveys) or their personal data or information, you will need approval from the School’s Research Ethics Committee (REC).

Most student research projects can be undertaken under the auspices of a pre-approved protocol.  At the time of writing, there are approved protocols for projects involving interviews or focus groups; projects involving surveys; business plans; and projects on behalf of a company.  Further protocols may be added during the year.  These protocol documents contain details of the kinds of project that they may and may not be used for, and a template for a research participant information sheet.   If your project does not fit any of the pre-approved protocols you may need to submit a formal application to the REC for ethical approval.  The relevant module convenor or your dissertation supervisor will let you know about any such requirements.

The latest version of these protocols and templates can be found on Moodle.

The School encourages students to undertake independent research where appropriate, normally as part of a dissertation module.  The intention of these procedures is not to discourage students from undertaking imaginative and original research, but to safeguard the interests, rights, and dignity of research participants.  This is just as important for student projects as for cutting-edge academic research led by world class researchers.

The process of ethical review and approval is an important part of safeguarding participants, but at least as important is for researchers to be aware of ethical issues when planning and carrying out their research.  The following guidance is adapted from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Framework for Research Ethics (2015):

There are six key principles of ethical research that the ESRC expects to be addressed whenever applicable:

The six key principles:

  1. Research should be designed, reviewed and undertaken to ensure integrity, quality and transparency.
  1. Research staff [including students undertaking research] and participants must normally be informed fully about the purpose, methods and intended possible uses of the research, what their participation in the research entails and what risks, if any, are involved.
  1. The confidentiality of information supplied by research participants and the anonymity of respondents must be respected.
  1. Research participants must take part voluntarily, free from any coercion.
  1. Harm to research participants must be avoided in all instances.
  1. The independence of research must be clear, and any conflicts of interest or partiality must be explicit.


To implement these principles:

  • The responsibility for conduct of the research in line with relevant principles rests with the principal investigator and the research / employing organization.
  • Risks should be minimized.
  • Research should be designed in a way that the dignity and autonomy of research participants is protected and respected at all times.


Have you considered risks to:

  • the research team?
  • the participants? (harm, deception, impact of outcomes)
  • the data collected? (storage, considerations of privacy, quality)
  • the university?
  • Might anyone else be put at risk as a consequence of this research?
  • What might these risks be?
  • How will you protect your data at the research site and away from the research site?


Details and recruitment of participants:

  • What types of people will be recruited?
  • How will the competence of participants to give informed consent be determined?
  • How, where, and by whom will participants will be identified, approached, and recruited?
  • Will any unequal relationships exist between anyone involved in the recruitment and the potential participants?
  • Are there any benefits to participants?
  • Is there a need for participants to be de-briefed? By whom?
  • What information will participants be given about the research?
  • Who will benefit from this research?
  • Have you considered anonymity and confidentiality?
  • How will you store your collected data?
  • How will data be disposed of and after how long?
  • Are there any conflicts of interest in undertaking this research?


Have you considered consent?

  • Does your information sheet (or equivalent) contain all the information participants need?
  • If your research changes, how will consent be renegotiated?

Are you conducting research outside the UK? Are there any additional issues that need to be considered as a result? (e.g. local customs, local ‘gatekeepers’, political sensitivities)

How will the ethics aspects of the project be monitored throughout its course?

How will unforeseen or adverse events in the course of research be managed?

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