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Postgraduate Research Handbook

Ethical Consideration and Approval

Ethical Consideration and Approval


In carrying out your research work, you will inevitably face ethical dilemmas arising out of competing obligations and conflicts of interest.  Research proposals involving human subjects are coming under closer scrutiny; it is an issue that the School and University takes very seriously.  Therefore, it is important that steps are taken to ensure that safeguards are in place, not only in the interests of the participants but also those of the investigator conducting the research.   In general, “research on human beings” will raise ethical issues and this is why you are required to declare whether or not this applies to your thesis topic and, if so, how these ethical issues are to be addressed.  In doing so, you are providing an assurance that you have read this statement and have considered whether your thesis proposal raises issues that require the attention of the “Senate Committee on the Ethics of Research on Human Beings”.

All research students (MPhil, MRes and PhD) are required to consider the ethical issues that arise from their planned doctoral research and to follow the University’s procedures for ethics review. 

Understanding Research Ethics – Workshop Sessions

During your 1st year of study, you will be introduced to the concept of Research Ethics.  As part of the Induction process, you will attend the ‘Research Ethics Workshop’ delivered by the AMBS Academic Coordinator for Research Ethics and Governance, Professor Nuno Gil.   This informative and interactive session encourages you to consider the ethical aspects of your research and provides guidance on planning research ethically during the first year of study.

The Research Ethics Workshop (December 2017) can be viewed here as a presentation.

In addition, the Faculty of Humanities offers workshops on ethical research and procedures.  These can be booked via the Training Calendar in eProg.  Further details are available at: 

First Steps

You should discuss the ethical issues relating to your research with your supervisory team during your Mid-Year Review in Year 1 and aim to ensure that you:

  • Safeguard the interests of anyone involved in or affected by your work;
  • Report your findings truthfully and accurately;
  • Satisfy yourself that your research is worthwhile and that the techniques used are appropriate;
  • Never present others’ work as your own.

If your research will involve human participants or human data or material, you must secure ethical approval BEFORE undertaking your fieldwork.  Examples of activities where approval is required include:

  • Questionnaire and interview based research involving sensitive or confidential issues;
  • Telephone interviewing or recording by audio or video tape;
  • Contact with participants who are children or considered as potentially vulnerable adults.

Will your research require Ethical Review?

The Ethics Decision Tool will help you determine whether your research requires Ethical Review by the University or NHS REC.  You must use this tool BEFORE logging in to the Ethical Review Manager (ERM).  Only submit an Ethical Application if the Ethics Decision Tool instructs you to do so.

As a 1st year full-time student or a 2nd year part-time student, your Annual Review form in eProg will prompt you regarding Ethics - you can view the section here.  You must complete these questions and take the appropriate action at this stage.

If your research involves the NHS, children or other vulnerable people, please contact the Doctoral Programmes Office to discuss ethical approval.

The Alliance MBS Intranet below also provides some additional support and guidance on this subject:

What happens next

You must receive Ethical Approval (where applicable) BEFORE any data collection can take place.

Please note that Postgraduate Research projects which have not been reviewed by an appropriate University authorised reviewer will not be covered under the University indemnity and the researcher will be liable for research misconduct.

If you make any significant changes to your research methodology, you may need to submit a new application for approval.  Please contact the Doctoral Programmes Office for advice.

Further Resources

Please see more information about good research practice and research ethics framework for social sciences from the following resources:

methods at Manchester

University of Manchester Good Research Practice