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Submitting your ethics application is an exciting step in your research project.

Getting my ethics application right

It’s time to start putting it all together and take the next step toward preparing for an ethics application.

The requirement to submit an ethics application is standard practice for research conducted in association with an organisation or institution involving people or animals. The application details the nature of your research, the processes you intend to use and any risks identified with the research, along with strategies to manage them.

The key objective of an ethics application and review is to improve the quality of research activity and output. You will discover that in completing your application you are forced to ‘take stock’ and reflect on each aspect of your research plan.

The format and requirements of ethics applications will vary across institutions, however the following areas are commonly addressed.

Overview

You’ll be asked to provide your contact information along with the details of any other researchers, if you are working in a team. Depending on the complexity or sensitivity of the procedures in your project, you may need to specify which procedures will be conducted by which team member. You will also need to provide details on these team members’ expertise, whether they will be directly supervising or assisting and what training they will be receiving.

If your research includes people, you will also need to describe participant experience. What are the potential risks and anticipated benefits for those involved?

If you are investigating illegal activities, sensitive issues or planning to conceal any part of the aims and methods of your research from participants, this needs to be disclosed and a justification provided. If you are planning to use animal subjects, you will also need to advise of this in your application and include your rationale for doing so.

Recruitment

Who exactly are your participants? You will need to provide details on the selection process, such as inclusion and exclusion criteria. Do your participants identify with a specific cultural or social group? How did you go about recruiting them and how many are involved? The ethics review committee will be particularly interested to know if you have drawn participants from vulnerable groups and what measures you have put in place to protect their rights.

How will you approach the requirement of consent? Will this be communicated verbally, in writing or a mixture of both? Will the target participants have the capacity to consent? What consent measures will be in place when collecting sensitive information, recording conversations, taking photographs or collecting video footage?

Privacy and confidentiality

You’ll need to describe the processes you will have in place to ensure your privacy and confidentiality assurances to participants are honored. Will data be de-identified? You will also need to describe how data will be safely stored, who will have access to it and how it will be destroyed when the time comes. If data is sensitive and has been coded, will the code key be stored separately from the data? Also keep in mind, if your research data is not correctly destroyed, the privacy and confidentiality of your participants is at risk.

Research materials

You will also need to supply copies of any surveys, questionnaires and interview questions you intend to use.

Your task

Thinking back on your initial ideas for research design, how has your understanding of ethics in practice changed? Is there anything you will now approach differently, relating to issues such as informed consent, confidentiality and privacy, risk identification or participant selection?

Select the comments link and post your response about what you’ll do differently.

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This article is from the free online course:

Why Ethics Matter: Ethical Research

Griffith University