Instructions on How to Complete the Individual Research Ethics Application

Psychology Student Research Ethics Committee

  1. Background to Research Ethics
  2. Sample Materials
  3. What to Watch Out For
  4. Elements of Informed Consent
  5. Submitting an Application

1. Background to Research Ethics

For undergraduates new to research ethics there are several online tutorials to recommend. The McMaster Research Ethics Tutorial will put the national research ethics policy (The Tri-Council Policy Statment) into perspective. It will also outline the overall research ethics process and has some good case studies.

A more challening online tutorial is the one developed by the government organization that acts as "stewards for the evolution of the Tri-Council Policy Statement". This is the Panel on Research Ethics Introductory Tutorial for the Tri-Council Policy Statement

2. Sample Materials

The webpage for the Psychology Student Research Ethics Committee has two sample individual applicatons and consent forms. There is a sample consent form used by the McMaster Research Ethics Board, that can be modified to meet the specific requirements of the Psychology Student Research Ethics Committee. This sample form can be found < Here >. There are also examples of "confidentiality scripts" on that webpage. You can download a blank sample of the Psychology Department Letterhead < Here >

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3. What to Watch Out For

  • The application must describe your research protocol from the perspective of the research participant. In order to treat the volunteer with consideration and dignity you must comply with the following aspects of the research participant’s experience:
  • The research entails minimal risk of any physical, psychological or social harms.
  • The person is informed, is not implicitly or explicitly coerced, and is competent to freely give their consent to participate.
  • The information you have acquired is anonymous and if not anonymous the data are collected and stored with strict privacy and confidentiality.
  • They may terminate their participation at any time without consequence. They have the option of not answering questions.
  • They are debriefed afterwards about the research questions and rationale.
  • They are offered summary findings of the results or offered other educational benefits for participating.

There is also an excellent tutorial by Dr. Daphne Maurer, Chair of the McMaster Research Ethics Board, and a nationally recognized expert and educator in research ethics, called "Tips and Traps: How to Get Your Ethics Application Approved by the Ethics Board". This tutorial is for faculty and graduates and uses their form as an example, but many of the same principles apply.

The application form will ask you to complete the following carefully thought out sections:

1. Purpose of the research.
2. Recruitment of research volunteers. Append Recruitment Request
3. Obtaining volunteer’s consent to participate. Append the Consent form
4. Unplanned termination of research participation.
5. Research tools & procedures as the volunteer will experience them
6. Debriefing. Append the Debriefing Statement
7. Description of risks to the volunteer & how such risks are minimized.
8. Guarantees for privacy & data confidentiality.
9. Guarantees of researcher’s compliance to standards of Ethical Guidelines.
10. If relevant, approval of agencies other than McMaster University.

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4. Elements of Informed Consent

Consent Form Instructions: Include the following essential information and offer a copy to the volunteer.

  • General purpose of the study.
  • Must be on Psychology Department letterhead - < Here > is a blank sample in Word
  • Description of the procedure(s) from the volunteer’s point of view.
  • Description of possible physical, psychological or social risks including discomforts, embarrassments, or annoyances; if none, say so.
  • Any remuneration for his/her time.
  • Description of the benefits of the study; if none, say so.
  • A statement that the volunteer may refuse to answer questions or not complete some part of the procedure or withdraw from the study.
  • A statement about provisions for privacy and confidentiality (anonymity or double-blind identification code plus information about access to the stored data).
  • A statement that the research has been reviewed by the Psychology Student Research Ethics Committee (PSREC). If there are any questions to contact Prof. S. Watter, chair of PSREC ( or 905-525-9140 ext. 23215) or Mr. Michael Wilson, Research Services ( or 905-525-9140 ext. 23142.
  • Identities of researchers, sponsoring agencies, and contact information.
  • To see examples of consent forms - go to the PSREC webpage

The McMaster Research Ethics Board also has an instructive checklist on the key elements of informed consent, found < Here >

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5. Submitting an Application

Students who have a thesis or individual research project (or small group project), must use the undergraduate ethics application found < Here >

Applications can be sent electronically to Michael J. Wilson ( or 2 paper copies to GH-305/H. Just the signed page has to be delivered by campus mail of Canada Post to GH-305/H. Once received by the Research Ethics Officer, your application will be screened for completeness and you will receive an email acknowledging receipt. The application is sent to the PSREC for review. You will be contacted by the Chair of the committee by email within 2 weeks. You may have to answer some comments the committee had during the review process. The method of appeal of non-approval of an application is through the faculty/graduate research ethics board - though this is very rare. The committee will not approve research retroactively.

Please Contact Research Ethics Officer Michael J. Wilson with any questions: 905-525-9140 ext. 23142, or the Chair of the Psychology Student Research Ethics Committee, Dr. Scott Watter, 905-525-9140 ext. 23215.

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