Research Ethics Office

Students as Research Participants

Many University researchers recruit students for their studies. Participating in research can have educational value in, for example, exposing students to the methods used in a discipline or engaging them in the analysis of their own data. However, students in classrooms represent a captive audience if they are recruited to participate in their instructor’s research project. Thus, in-class research raises a number of ethical issues:

  • Coercion, or pressure to participate, is a major concern if an instructor plans to use his or her own students as participants, particularly during class time. Students may feel that their grades will be affected by their participation. Experimentation in a classroom setting may raise the issue of confidentiality, as students may be able to read or hear one another’s responses.
  • In-class research raises concerns about the anonymity of participants because it is relatively easy to tell if someone is participating or not. E.g.,  they fill out a questionnaire, or do something else or leave the room..
  • For research to take up any teaching time, it should have educational value.

In these cases, when the instructor applies for REB approval for research involving his/her students or classes, s/he  will need to address mechanisms of free and informed and the risks associated with issues of confidentiality and anonymity..

Students as Research Staff

When students conduct human participant research as part of working with the University, they conduct this work under the direction of a Principal Investigator (PI), usually a member of the academic staff. The PI is responsible for obtaining ethics approval for the research, for ensuring that research personnel have the necessary training and supervision and for ensuring that their work is consistent with the approved research.

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