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Ethical Requirements

* All students completing a dissertation will be required to complete an ethical review form. Data MUST not be collected without first obtaining ethics approval for your research, or this being formally waived for your project. If you submit a project that includes data gathered from or about people without ethical approval this may be treated as academic misconduct and could lead to a mark of zero being awarded for your project *

Please be aware this page details ethical approval instructions for many WMG courses so please take note of the specific instructions described below for your particular course group.

Both students and supervisors must have completed the required training prior to completing any ethical documentation. The WMG SDA form requires that student supplies evidence of the completion of the GDPR course, as a minimum.

Ethical approval should not be considered as a bureaucratic obstacle; it is an important mechanism for ensuring and demonstrating that the design of your research respects the rights of those who participating in the research.

For most projects your Project Supervisor has the authority to assess whether the ethics of your project method is sound (see Section C for more information), and ALL project supervisors should have completed basic training on research ethics so they can guide you appropriately on these matters.

A) General Guidelines

The general requirements for ensuring you adhere to ethics guidelines are that:
1) You cause no harm to any participants by collecting or publishing data
2) You abide by the UK Data Protection Act for the storage of data

B) Supervisor Delegated Approval Process

The process for ethical approval for the majority of WMG student projects (see Section C) is as follows:

C) Ethical approval that cannot be delegated to Supervisors

The Supervisor Delegated Approval process described above will be suitable for all projects that include secondary data analysis only, or those that are limited to data collection by interview, focus group, and questionnaire/survey, clinical audit, service evaluation, or involves the evaluation of software or e-Learning materials, and only with participants who are not vulnerable and not dependent (e.g. not receiving health or social care, primary or secondary education, or criminal justice services), where the research does not investigate sensitive or intrusive matters (e.g. health status, wellbeing, political opinions, religious beliefs, professional or academic misconduct, criminal activity, sexual history, etc.).
If the project is something other than these types and the project uses human participants for their research using other research methods (i.e. involves research through observation, experimentation, action research, ethnography; or involves NHS patients/staff, children, vulnerable adults, etc.), students MUST apply for full ethical approval through the Biological Sciences Research Ethics Committee (see BSREC webpage for further guidance). If you are in this situation it is important that you allow at least 1 month for BSREC to assess your research proposal, and you MUST NOT start data collection until you received full ethical approval from BSREC. As above, once you have been granted ethical approval you will receive an email from BSREC, which you can then use as evidence for successful completing the ethical approvals process.
If you are at all unsure whether your project meets the Supervisor Delegated Approval requirements, please discuss this with your supervisor or contact wmg-ft-projects at warwick dot ac dot uk for further guidance.

D) What your Research Methodology/ Proposal chapter should contain

This is fully detailed by your relevant Study Skills module (the SPA module for FTMSc students); but a research methodology or proposal document should contain comprehensive information of the research methods to be used, why they are appropriate, detail about any participants, and any other ethical considerations.

This information only needs to be in DRAFT form for your ethics submission, but in enough detail that your supervisor (and a potentially third party) can understand what data you intend to collect and what you will then do with it.

*** NB: If you are considering use of surveys or interviews, a DRAFT of ALL survey, or interview/ focus group questions MUST be included with your submission***

E) Additional Documentation

a) Participant Consent Form;

It is advised that students seek to gain formal consent for all face-to-face interviews by asking participants to sign a Participant Consent Form (PCF). This is especially important if it is believed that the interview may contain any contentious or sensitive information.
There are template Participant Consent Forms for WMG students within the right hand column; including one for face-to-face interviews and one for online surveys (both include further guidance on their use).

b) Participant Information Leaflet;
Any participants that you meet for face-to-face for interviews, focus groups or surveys should also be shown a Participant Information Leaflet (PIL) to inform them of the general details of the research.

There is a template PIL's for students doing interviews in the right-hand menu (the simpler WMG example is recommended unless you are applying for BSREC ethics approval).

If you are carrying out research remotely it is advised that a cover letter (covering as a minimum the information contained in the PIL) is sent to all participants to inform them of their rights. Students using electronic surveys (i.e. Qualtrics), can provide the PIL in the survey header, and a template example is given in the right-hand menu. Under the new GDPR guidance, you should always get your participants to 'tick a box' or similar for participants to consent for usage of their data.

When submitting these documents with your ethical approval documentation, you only need to provide your template Participant Consent Form and Participant Information Leaflet (i.e. the blank consent form not any forms signed by your participants) as you will not have begun your data collection by this point.
Likewise, the Information Leaflet should have all of the relevant information, apart from the ethical approval reference number and associated date left as X's. Once you receive ethical approval, please then insert this additional reference data into your Information Leaflet for distributing to participants and then inclusion in your dissertation appendices.

F) Other Information

a) Travelling abroad for data collection;
If you are intending to travel abroad to collect ANY information from participants, then you MUST have received ethical approval for your research BEFORE you travel. Any data collected overseas without prior ethical approval will be subject to penalties, which could include failing your dissertation module. Please also see the University guidance on projects collecting data overseas

b) Use of external software tools;

The University allow use of some external software tools to conduct research. The full list of approved tools can be found on the BSREC website (see the right hand side menu and look for link called 'IDC approved research services'). Students should not be using any other tools for their research, except those mentioned as fully reviewed and approved by the University.

c) Missed ethics deadline;
Any student missing the usual deadlines for ethical approval will need to submit for ethical approval as soon as they are able to following the deadline, or should ensure that their project only involves secondary data and that no data is gathered from or about people during their research project.

d) Changing your methods post-ethical approval

Some changes to research methods affect the approved ethics status of your research (e.g., changing the sample from an adult to a child population), whilst other changes would not affect this (e.g. increasing your sample group from 20 to 30 respondents although their characteristics do not change). If you make any changes at all you must discuss this with your supervisor to determine whether you should submit a modified ethics application for approval. If you are in any doubt, or wish to change your methods significantly after you have received ethical approval, please send a new SDA form to your supervisor with details of the additional data, or changes to data collection you would like to make. Supervisors can then send the new form to the Full-time Master's Office to gain additional approval for the new or improved methods.

e) Resubmission dissertations

Students are advised not to collect any NEW data for any resubmission of their dissertation. If you feel you need to collect new data in order to gain a pass for your work, please first discuss this with your project supervisor, and if necessary the projects team to confirm this is necessary. You WILL then be required to submit another ethical approval form (preferably via your supervisor as they are required to sign this document) to collect any new data that was not described within the original paperwork.

f) NHS projects during COVID

Please see the NHS website but generally UG and PG projects are not likely to receive ethical approval from the NHS during this very busy time.

* Projects submitted using data gathered from or about people without ethical approval will be subject to penalties, which could include failing your dissertation module *