The Ethics Review Process (for staff, MSc, and honours students)

Submitting a protocol for ethical review

To complete a new ethics protocol submission, or to view your existing submissions, use the PPLS-wide Ethics Submission Portal.

LEL Honours and MSc students: do not submit an application to the portal yourself. You should do this with your supervisor, and your supervisor must submit the application.

Notes to all:

  1. Only projects with human subjects or with pre-existing data the use of which require ethical review. In other words, level 0 submissions are not in general required.
  2. All staff funded projects (in any PPLS subject area) must be registered on the ethics portal, regardless of level (i.e., even level 0).

Process outline…for staff/PhD students

Here is how ethical approval works:
  • For full instructions (with pictures!) head to this page. Otherwise, the basics:
  • For research with human subjects or with pre-existing data the use of which requires ethical review:
    1. Go to the PPLS-wide Ethics Submission Portal.
    2. Answer all the required questions on the application form. Check out some example answers.
    3. Upload all required forms as indicated on the portal.
      • Most projects require submission of  consent or information forms and recruitment materials (if relevant).
      • Please use the consent templates available on the here.
      • All revisions/edits to your submitted documents require (re-)approval, therefore please, please, check accuracy, grammar, and spelling!
    4. Your application will be anonymously reviewed by the LEL Ethics Committee (within two weeks, not including time for reviewing any requested revisions.)
    5. If you are making amendments to an existing project, see this guidance.

Process outline…for Honours/MSc students

General comments: all Honours/MSc students in LEL must obtain ethical approval for dissertation projects involving human subjects, or any other pre-existing data which have ethical implications. It is up to you (with the help of your supervisor and/or a LEL ethics rep) to determine if your project requires ethical review. 

If your project requires ethical approval, you will proceed in two stages: training and preparation, then application submission.

NB: You do NOT need to submit a copy of your ethics approval document with your dissertation. However, if you have sought and received ethical approval by the LEL Ethics Committee, please document this in your dissertation (for example, cite your reference number in a footnote).

Supervisor responsibilities:

  1. Help student consider the ethical implications of their research and map out a timeline for gaining ethical approval.
  2. Read/comment on draft documents.
  3. Submit the application (with student present).

Deadline: there is no hard deadline for applying for ethical review for your project. However, please note that the minimum time for review (after your application has been submitted) is two weeksYou may not begin collecting any data until you have been approved.

Getting help: please check out the extensive guidance (with pictures!) for all things LEL Ethics on this page. If you need more help, feel free to contact lel.ethics@ed.ac.uk any time, or come to our open office hours.

Before you submit your application

Training: the LEL Research Ethics Training Learn module includes a short training course and quiz. All UG students must complete this module. As of 2018, all MSc students must also complete this module. If you have trouble accessing the Learn module, contact lel.ethics@ed.ac.uk.

Preparation: consider the ethical implications of your research. In particular:
  • Are you testing any vulnerable populations (e.g., children, adults with disabilities, prisoners)?
  • Could your study result in harm to the participant or the experimenter? For example, through exposure to disturbing material.
  • How will you obtain informed consent?
  • How will you recruit participants. If through a mailing list, see here.
  • Will any of the data you collect be non-anonymous (i.e., personal information like names, email addresses,  signatures, or other information that would allow your participants to be identified, like audio or video recordings)?
  • How will you ensure data are securely stored? Will your supervisor store a copy of the data? What will you do with consent forms? What about after the project is finished?
  • Do you have plans for disseminating your data? For example, do you want to share it with other researchers? Feel it back to the community your are studying? How will you do this in a way which protects your participants’ privacy?

Draft documents: draft your consent form and any other required documentation (i.e., information sheets if separate, debriefing form, recruitment letter). You must use our consent form templates.

Contact your supervisor: email your draft documentation to your supervisor. Then together, you should complete the steps below.

To submit an application

(Note: extensive guidance if your supervisor has not used the ethics portal before, or needs a refresher is here).

  • For research with human subjects or with pre-existing data the use of which requires ethical review:
    1. Your supervisor should log into the PPLS-wide Ethics Submission Portal.
    2. Together, answer all the required questions on the application form.  Check out some example answers.
    3. Upload all required forms as indicated on the portal.
      • Most projects require submission of  consent or information forms and recruitment materials (if relevant).
      • Remember: you must use the consent templates available here.
      • All revisions/edits to your submitted documents require (re-)approval, therefore please, please, check accuracy, grammar, and spelling!
    4. Your application will be anonymously reviewed by the LEL Ethics Committee. The review will be complete within two weeks. If you are required to submit revisions the process may be longer.
    5. You may not start data collection until you have obtained ethical approval.

After your study is complete

Data handling: Your project doesn’t end once you’ve finishing collecting data. Please ensure that you follow the plans documented on your ethics application for secure data handling:

  • Give all consent forms to your supervisor!
  • Follow through with your data storage plans, including securely sharing data with your supervisor.

Documentation of ethical approval: You or your supervisor will have received an email documenting ethical approval. Please include this in your dissertation when you submit it, or cite the approval number (which you will find in the email) in your dissertation itself (e.g. in a footnote).

Process outline…for study abroad students

Honours students doing a year abroad, please follow the instructions for Honours/MSc students just above.