Course Guidelines -
Course Guidelines -
Course Application - with special thanks to Dr. Michael Atkinson,
Department of Sociology
of Projects and Activities and Ethics Review
Examples of Projects and Activities
and Ethics Review - Word
Link to course application form
Many undergraduate, MBA, and graduate courses include class projects and
activities designed to develop research skills. These projects may be carried
out by individual students, small groups or as a single class project.
McMaster University wishes to encourage learning of research methodologies
and techniques by students. Class exercises may not fit the standard definition
of research in the sense that the results are not intended for publication
or for generalization to other situations, however, the potential for risk
to participants who participate in research class exercises requires the protocol
and consent information be reviewed by a research ethics board.
Course-based research activities vary in scope, but may include:
- having students conduct interviews, administer standard tests,
or distribute questionnaires to develop interview or questionnaire
- conduct "mini" research projects where students pose research
questions, gather data from human participants, and analyse the data for
- other activities that would be considered research within the disciplinary
traditions in which the course is being taught.
A. Distinguishing Research from Case/Professional Skill Development
In some class situations the information gathering procedures and practices
students are expected to use are exclusively required for pedagogic purposes.
They are not conducted within the context of, or embedded within, a research
framework. For example, professional faculties have students conduct interviews
as part of skill development or individual knowledge acquisition. Information
gathering projects within these situations are not subject to MREB review
requirements, however they must align with the appropriate professional
standards or codes of conduct and review processes required by the relevant
The following criteria can be used to assess whether information-gathering
activities within a university course are part of a research project or
are for the teaching of professional skills or pedagogic purposes.
Information gathering activities are classified as research where
- the intent is to educate students on research processes used
to explore and expand existing theories and conceptual knowledge;
- students compare new techniques, practices, programs with standard
approaches to determine which is more effective;
- the results or findings are written in a format that would be acceptable
for a research journal or academic conference presentation; or
- primary data is collected and organized for analysis and distribution
Information gathering activities are classified as skill development
and not research when:
- the intent is to use the information to provide advice, diagnosis,
identification of appropriate interventions, or general advice
for a client, the intent is to develop skills which are considered
standard practice within a profession (e.g., observation, assessment,
intervention, evaluation, auditing); or
- the information gathering processes are part of the normal relationship
between the student and the participants (e.g., classroom teacher and
students, nurse and patient, lawyer and client),
Instructors who are uncertain as to whether a learning activity
or project falls outside the scope of the criteria outlined in this document
should contact the Research Ethics Secretariat at ext. 23142, or email@example.com.
For further clarification, appended to the “Request for Approval
of a Course-Based Research Project” form, are examples of activities
that require review, and examples of activities that do not require review.
B. Criteria for Student Research
If a class project falls under the definition of research as described
above, the following Guidelines and Procedures may be applied.
The instructor may oversee the conduct of his or her individual student’s
research by completing a “Request for Ethical Approval of a Course-Based
Research Project” form and submitting it for approval to the departmental
Student Research Ethics Committee, or the McMaster Research Ethics Board,
if there is no departmental committee.
Requests for approval of course-based research projects must comply with
the following criteria:
- The student projects must not involve any personal, sensitive
or incriminating topics or
questions which could place participants at risk.
- The student projects must not manipulate behaviour of participants
beyond the range of
“normal” classroom activity or daily life.
- The student projects must not involve physically invasive
contact with the research
- The student projects do not involve deception.
C. The Application Process
1. The Instructor for the course takes the role of principal investigator
and submits a Request for Approval of Course-Based Research Projects form
for the class.
2. The "Request for Approval of Course-Based Research Projects"
form is signed by the Course Instructor. Included with the application
is a sample consent form or letter of information, and a sample questionnaire,
survey or other research instrument.
3. The “Request for Approval of Course-Based Research Projects”
form should be submitted to the
MREB Secretariat for distribution to the appropriate Student Ethics
Review Committee or to the McMaster Research Ethics Board if there is no
4. The Instructor should have their students complete an “Individual Application To Involve Human Participants
in Research” form for each separate research project which is
being undertaken in the class. The Instructor reviews each of these applications
and ensures that
they are complete and in compliance with the ethics review requirements
of the University. A
checklist has been developed to aid instructors in evaluating the
5. If the student projects are to be carried out at other institutions
or agencies (such as schools, hospitals, government agencies etc.) students
should be aware that approval granting permission to access premises or
to obtain private information from the other institution may be required,
and should be obtained, where appropriate.
6. All forms related to approving the ethical acceptability of each student’s
project must be
retained by the instructor for a period of two years.
7. Ethical approval for class projects is maintained for three years, provided
that there are no
changes to the course assignments. If changes are made a “Change Request” form
must be completed and submitted to the MREB Secretariat. New course applications
must be re-submitted at the end of three years. All sections of the course,
whether on campus or not, must follow the procedures and all Instructors
must ensure that these policies are complied with.
8. All questions and clarifications concerning the interpretation of these
be directed to the Research Ethics Secretariat, ext. 23142, firstname.lastname@example.org