Sociology Student SREC & Terms of Reference

2011 - 2012 Members Sociology Student Research Ethics Committee

D. Young , Sociology, Chair
M. Heath
L. Joanisse
N. Brown , graduate
M. Smith , graduate

Link to the Course Form
Link to the Individual Application Form
 Link to Guidelines for Course Based Projects Involving Human Subjects

Sociology Research Ethics Committee Terms of  Reference

RATIONALE: In compliance with the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (2010), and the McMaster University Policy Statement for Research Involving Human Participants, and in collaboration with the McMaster University Research Ethics Board (MREB), we propose to establish in the Department of Sociology, a Student Research Ethics Committee to deal with undergraduate student research proposals involving minimal risk. The McMaster University Policy Statement for Research Involving Human Participants is available on the web at:



Applications may be made for individual undergraduate research projects or for course-based research projects. Although undergraduate student researchers are encouraged to be involved in the application process, the final application form must come from the supervisor or course instructor and must be signed by the supervisor/instructor.

Applications which involve research conducted by graduate students and faculty members, or undergraduate student research which is part of a faculty member’s research program, cannot be reviewed by the SSREC, and must be submitted to the McMaster Research Ethics Board.


The SSREC reviews undergraduate student research projects which involve participants, topics and methods that pose minimal risk. The Tri-Council definition of minimal risk (TCPS Article 2.8) "is defined as researchin which the probability and magnitude of possible harms implied by participation in the research is no greater than those encountered by participants in those aspects of their everyday life that relate to the research."


In its determination of whether or not the student project is of minimal risk, the SSREC will consider the following criteria:

a) Degree of physical risk;
b) Degree of psychological risk (eg. Potential of participant to feel demeaned, embarrassed, worried, upset, fatigued, or stressed);
c) Degree of social risk (eg. Possible loss of status, privacy and/or reputation); potential of participants being harmed in some way;
d) Whether deception is involved;
e) Are the research methods invasive (eg. blood sampling, x-rays); and do the procedures involve the administration of any substance.

INFORMED CONSENT: Informed consent will be gathered from all participants in the research. Informed consent is a process which is different from the consent form. It involves meeting with a potential participant, finding out whether he or she is capable of giving consent, and discussing the purpose, risks and benefits of participation in the research. Naturalistic observation does not normally require informed consent but permission may be needed to do this in some public or private spaces.

Evidence of free and informed consent by the participant should ordinarily be in writing. Consent forms should be written in a simple direct style using terms and language that the participant understands. The process for obtaining informed consent will vary according to the particular research setting (eg. Telephone interviews, questionnaires, interviews, experiments), or the particular culture of the participants (eg. Aboriginal; international). Where individual written consent is inappropriate, either because of the nature of the research or the characteristics or culture of the proposed research participants, an alternative process for consent may be developed by the student researcher and details of the alternative process should be submitted to the SSREC for review and approval or amendment.


The consent form should contain as a minimum, the identity of the researchers and the faculty offering the research course; a general description of the purpose of the study, the topic that is being explored and what the research findings should identify; a description of any risks, such as those identified on the application form; a statement of the nature and duration of the participation process; a description of any recording devices to be used; a statement of the provisions for confidentiality; a request for permission to quote if quotes are to be used; and a statement that the participant has the right to refuse to participate or to withdraw from the study at any time without consequence and/or refrain from answering whatever questions he or she prefers to omit.


The Department of Sociology Student Research Ethics Committee will be composed of three faculty members including the Chair of the committee, one graduate and one undergraduate student. Composition of the committee should reflect different areas of research and expertise of the department. Faculty members will be appointed by the Chair of the Department for staggered three year terms, and students will by appointed by their relevant associations on a yearly basis. Terms are renewable. Student representation at meetings is considered desirable although students may rotate attendance depending on work constraints. The McMaster Research Ethics Officer Board Secretariat will be informed of the committee’s composition on a yearly basis.


The SSREC Chair will submit an annual report to the MREB, with the assistance of the Research Ethics Officer, (Michael Wilson) by June 1st each year, reporting on the proposals reviewed and approved. These procedures and any subsequent changes to them must be approved by all the members of SSREC and by the McMaster Research Ethics Board.



1) At the beginning and end of each term, reminders will be sent out by E-mail to all members of the Sociology Department informing them of the requirement to seek either SREC or MREB approval of research protocols involving human subjects.

2) Five hard copies of any application or 1 hard copy and an E-mail attachment must be submitted to:

Michael Wilson, Research Ethics Officer
c/o Office of Research Ethics, GH 305

Applications will be assigned a number and reviewed by the Research Ethics Officer for completeness. In the event of missing or incomplete documentation, the Research Ethics Officer will contact applicants directly for corrections to the application.

3) The Sociology Student Research Ethics Committee will have applications for review forwarded to them by the Research Officer after this process has been completed. Meetings will be arranged as required to facilitate approval.

4) The committee will normally meet face-to-face to discuss applications and the Chair of the committee will sign off on recommendations for approval. The Research Officer will be informed in writing or E-mail of the disposition of each application as follows:
(a) Approved without amendment
(b) Approved with amendment

5) Applications requiring amendments will be returned to applicants for modification with a written directive as to which changes should be made. Written records will be kept of any exchanges with applicants in this regard, and follow-up approval can take place by E-mail if all parties agree. A copy of these exchanges will also be forwarded to the Research Ethics Officer.

6) Applications judged to require approval outside the departmental committee, including those deemed to involve more than minimal risk, deception, or cases for which conflicts of interest reduce it size to fewer than three members will be forwarded to MREB for further consideration.

7) A copy of all approved applications and accompanying materials may be kept in the department. The Research Ethics Officer will keep the final approved copy and accompanying documentation.

8) Applications that are rejected can be appealed through the McMaster Research Ethics Board, who’s decision is final.


1) Course protocols can be approved for up to three years, assuming the instructor and the format of the course being taught remain the same. In the fourth year, a new course application must be submitted.

2) In the case of sessional instructors, applications for approval must be submitted on a year by year basis to ensure conformity to regulations, unless the instructor and the format of the course being taught remain the same. (See point 1 above).


1) Course-Based Research Involving Human Participants

When the intent of the course is to teach professional skills and/or requires undergraduate research projects involving human subjects conducted as part of a research study, an application for approval of course-based research can be made to the SSREC, provided that the research meets the criteria outlined in the Instructors’ Guidelines for Course-Based Student Projects. Those guidelines can be found at the web-site address noted below.

2) Individual Undergraduate Student Applications

Approval must be obtained from the departmental SREC when, either the course-based research project does not meet the criteria outlined in the Instructors Guidelines, or the research is conducted as part of an independent research study (Eg. Sociology 4M03; 4N03; 4MM6). The research project must meet the criteria for assessing minimal risk or be referred to MREB.


Generic forms for individual Undergraduate Student Applications, Course-Based Research Projects, Protocol Review Forms, and Final Reports, as established by the McMaster Research Ethics Board, will be utilized for the sake of uniformity.

Website for McMaster Research Ethics Board:

Webpage for Instructors’ Guidelines for Course Based Student Projects:

Webpage for Student Application:

Webpage for Preparing an Information Letter/Consent Form:

Webpage for the Sociology Student Research Ethics Committee Terms of Reference:

Last Update December 14, 2010tcps2