Course-Based Research Ethics Application Guide

Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning

Portions of this document have been adopted from Niagara College with their permission and adapted for Conestoga College.  CCITAL gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Niagara College in this regard.

Course-Based Research Projects

Conestoga College faculty and students conducting a course-based research project that involve humans shall be reviewed and receive approval for the ethical acceptability of their research project in order to comply with the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2) and College guidelines.  The TCPS 2 is a federal mandate that promotes high ethical conduct, standards and procedures for research that involves human participants.  It applies to those conducting, participating in, or reviewing human research in institutions.

Research Exempt from Ethical Review

Although all research involving human participants requires research ethics review, there are activities that are not intended for the purpose of research, such as those administered in the ordinary course of the operation of an organization or publically available information that may be exempt from review.  The following bullet points demonstrate activities that may be exempt from ethical review.  However, researchers shall be aware of any copyrights or intellectual property rights established by legal entities, including protections or dissemination restrictions; ethical practices established within a cultural sector; and already established best practices guidelines by an institution or professional/disciplinary association.  If any of the following apply (A-F), projects are exempt from research ethics review:

A. Interaction with individuals who are not the focus of the research (e.g. collecting information from authorized personnel to release information or data in the ordinary course of their employment about organizations, policies, procedures, professional practices or statistical reports)

B. Research that relies exclusively on publically available information (i.e. information legally accessible to public and protected by law, and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy)

C. Observation of people in public places (i.e. if there is no interaction/intervention involved by the researcher; if they have no reasonable expectation of privacy; or if the dissemination of research results does not allow identification of individuals)

D. Research that relies only on the "secondary use of anonymous information" that does not lead to "identifiable information" if linked with other data

E. "Quality assurance and quality improvement studies, program evaluation activities, and performance reviews, or testing within normal educational requirements when used exclusively for assessment, management or improvement purposes" (e.g. staff performance reviews, evaluation in academic or professional training, data collection for internal/external organizational reports, etc.)

F. "Creative practice activities, in and of themselves"1 (e.g. the interpretation of a work or works of arts by an artist, as well as the study of how a work of art is generated)

1 Tri-council policy statement Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, pg 14-18, 2014, Government of Canada

Research Ethics Review Protocol for Course-Based Research Projects

For Faculty: There are two ways to approach course-based research projects:

  1. Faculty-driven: An instructor may choose to compile a bank of research questions for pre-approval by the REB.  In this process the students may choose from the pre-approved questions for their research project without requiring them to submit their own individual/research team applications.  This option generally results in a shorter approval time since one application is made on behalf of the course.  The REB recognizes that the pre-approval approach may not be applicable to all course content or program learning objectives.  
  2. Student-driven: An instructor can also encourage and assist students to develop their own unique research questions, however, each individual/research team is required to submit an Application to Involve Human Participants in Research for approval.  This process will take longer since the REB must review each individual application.  Instructors pursuing this option should consider preparing for this review in the term prior to the course start date since the sooner your students submit their applications, the sooner they can begin their project.
In both cases, the instructor must submit the Request for Ethics Approval of Course-Based Research form.  The instructor must complete the TCPS 2 online training and certification.  In addition, the instructor will serve as a supervisor and mentor in order to oversee, train, and educate student researchers.

The students have the responsibility to communicate any changes to the approved course-based research project; adverse unanticipated events; and other ethical implications as soon as possible during the life of the project.

Application Procedures for Students

​Students working in teams shall appoint a principal investigator or the "leader of a research team who is responsible for the conduct of the research and for the actions of any member of the research team." The Principal Investigator and all members of the research team shall ensure the following:

  1. Will complete and submit the completed Application to Involve Human Participants in Research to the REB Coordinator at by the deadline provided in class
  2. Will complete and submit the TCPS 2: Core Tutorial certificates of completion for all team members, along with any applicable final supporting documentation (e.g. consent letter and forms, recruitment correspondence, research instruments, i.e. surveys, test, questionnaires, etc.) and other documentation stated in the form
  3. Should review and monitor that all research activities are conducted with the highest ethical standards
  4. Should ensure that permission is granted and that all protocols are followed for research conducted at other institutions/entities
  5. Should seek advice and guidance from their instructor to request clarifications, ask questions, or communicate concerns

Helpful Information for Completing the Application to Involve Human Participants in Research

​For all sections of the form:
  1. Do not leave any sections blank
  2. Input "N/A" if not applicable
  3. Where applicable, attach all final supporting documentation or standardized documents, as requested in the form
  4. Answer all questions – 
    1. In a clear and concise manner, and
    2. In plain language appropriate for readers who may not be experts in the field

Title of Research Project: This is the title created by the students, if different from the assignment title. The research project title should be clear, complete, and consistent throughout the documents, if applicable (e.g. consent form, recruitment correspondence, etc.). Note: Acronyms shall be spelled out.

In the space provided enter the course title and number, and School and department.

Research Location: The research location should be clearly stated and not involve a situation that may be of concern (e.g. interviews being conducted in a participant's home; research being undertaken in a politically unstable area; or research involving sensitive cultural issues). Obtain any required administrative consent for research conducted within a community, institution, and/or organization.

Conflict of Interest: Please identify any potential, perceived, or actual conflicts of interest. Provide an explanation of the actions that will be taken to deal with any conflicts. Researchers shall review the college's Policy on Research Integrity (pdf) and Chapter 7 of the TCPS 2 to further understand conflicts of interest.

Summary of the Proposed Research: The rationale should be a statement including the purpose and objectives of the project.

Methodology: The methodology should:
  1. Describe in a detailed and sequential order all procedures in which the research participants will be involved (e.g. tasks, activities, testing, interviews, surveys, time requirements, etc.);
  2. Describe and provide a rationale for the intended use of research instruments and activities in relation to the research;
  3. Ensure that the study design, methods, and procedures are clearly communicated and appropriate to the objective and to achieve the intended results; and
  4. Describe the method of analysis (e.g. quantitative, qualitative, and observational) and instruments to be used.
  5. Provide a list of all research tools to be used to collect and/or analyze data. Please include the final copies of all standardized surveys, interview schedules, etc.
  6. Researchers shall describe the study population, including the anticipated size of enrolment. This information will help the reviewer see potential vulnerability of the participants.

Vulnerable Groups – Individuals who may have a diminished ability to fully safeguard their own interests (e.g. people in poverty, elderly people, people in prison, children, people with physical and/or mental impairments, aboriginal people, or people under a certain socio-political environment, sexual orientation, etc.)

Recruitment Process: Describe the recruitment process and include copies of all final recruitment correspondence (e.g. posters, media advertisements, brochures, email text, letters, etc.) along with the application.

Informed Consent: Participants should actively choose whether or not to participate by having the opportunity to give their informed consent prior to participating on the research. Researchers shall consult Chapter 3 of the TCPS 2 and Conestoga College's Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Humans (pdf) policy for further details of what to include in the consent letters/forms. There are various forms of consent (e.g. written, oral, third-party, etc.). According to the TCPS 2 the default consent shall be written; however, other forms of consent may be acceptable for cultural reasons or other special circumstances. Please explain the consent process and attach final consent forms (e.g. information letters, scripts, etc.) provided to participants.

Collection of Personal Information, Storage and Protection of Personal Information, Transmission of Data, Secondary Use of Data: The ethical duty of confidentiality by researchers includes safeguarding information. This entails the collection, use, dissemination, retention, and/or disposal of the information for its full life cycle. Please explain procedures for safeguarding information. If applicable, consider explaining any labels, linkages of data, accessibility of data, storage of data (e.g. include location and for how long).

Possible Risks to Participants: When evaluating the risks to participants, this is an evaluation of the risks of harm. According to the TCPS 2, harm is anything that has a negative effect on a participants' welfare. The nature of harm may be social, behavioural, psychological, physical or economic.

Minimal Risks are risks in which the probability of possible harms implied by participation in the research is no greater than those encountered by participants in the aspect of their everyday life that relates to the research. 

Feedback: Researchers shall explain what, when, and how the feedback from the research study will be provided to the participants. The researcher shall provide feedback in a way that is accessible to the participants.

Research Ethics Application Guide