How to write a good ethics application

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Human Ethics Resources

Things You Need To Know

Forms for Human Research Ethics

How To Write A Good Ethics Application

By investing time in the planning and documentation of your ethics application, the time taken to receive ethics approval can be minimised.

Tips for obtaining ethics approval in the minimum time frame

The following tips will assist you in developing a good ethics application and; therefore, in obtaining ethics approval in the minimum timeframe.

Allow time

The ethics review and approval process is an integral, and potentially time-consuming, part of any human research project. Gaining ethics approval is not a step in the process that should be left to the last minute.

A high quality ethics application takes time and planning. Therefore, researchers are strongly urged to allow themselves sufficient time to develop a well-designed and well-documented ethics application that addresses all relevant ethics issues.

Communicate clearly

Use plain language in your application documents. Ethics reviewers are unlikely to be experts in your research field and, most importantly, the participants in your research need information expressed to them in terms that can be clearly understood by non-experts in a field of study.

Ensure your application is self-explanatory and self-sufficient

It is a requirement for post-graduate and PhD research projects that a copy of the full research proposal accompanies the ethics application document package. In the case of other, complex, research proposals, it would also be prudent to attach a copy of the full proposal.

However, the ethics application form and accompanying documents must be capable of being read, reviewed and approved as self-explanatory documents that justify the research proposal.

Therefore, researchers should not include cryptic explanations of procedures in the ethics application form, with a direction for ethics reviewers to seek the necessary detail in a lengthy document describing the full protocol.

Use the guidelines available to help you

The human research ethics web site includes a number of guidelines to assist you in designing your research project and preparing your application documents. Please use those guidelines to ensure that your application meets the required standards.

Ensure your application package is complete

Submit a complete package of all required documents. If some documents are missing, this will delay the processing of your application.

Label your documents

An ethics application will usually include a number of separate documents. Please clearly label each document when you save it to your computer. When the documents are transmitted to HREO for processing, clearly labelled documents help in reducing processing time for your application.

Place yourself in the role of a participant

When explaining your project and considering the ethics issues that it may involve, place yourself in the role of a potential participant in your own project. What issues and concerns might you have about the project before agreeing to participate and what information and reassurances would you want a researcher to provide.

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