Research and Evaluation Ethics

It is important that institutional research and evaluation is designed and conducted ethically and all researcher/evaluators are clear about their approach to ethics.

STEER can offer ethical guidance and support on aspects of research and evaluation ethics within the institution.

Ethical Approval of Institutional Research and Evaluation

Ethical approval will allow you to publish your findings externally at conferences and in written publication such as journals.  The approval process can also provide an opportunity to reflect on reviewer feedback and enhance your methodology.

The processes for obtaining ethical approval for institutional research and evaluation at Hallam via Converis and can be found here.  If you are conducting this type of work STEER can support you with your application for ethical approval.

You can also review this ethical review application as an example of ‘what a good one looks like’: Ethics Review_exampleSTEER (uploaded with the consent of the researchers).

“Ethical approval should not be a hurdle, but an opportunity to reflect on research design and receive pre-study peer review; embracing a more constructive approach may go some way to instil confidence and compliance with the process.” (Hack 2015)

Ethical Practice

Ethical approval is an institutional process; it may be more helpful to think about ethical practice in institutional research and evaluation.  Your ethical practices should consider: consent; transparency; right to withdraw; incentives; harm arising from participation; privacy and data storage; and disclosure.  This is particularly important if you are working with students as participants or co-researcher/evaluators.

You can use this checklist to help guide your ethical practice when designing research and evaluation: Ethical-checklist

The use of participant information sheets, consent forms and survey briefs/debriefs will help to ensure sound ethical practice, and are an essential inclusion in an application for ethical approval.  These templates have been designed for institutional research and evaluation and can be adapted for specific projects:


Template – Survey Brief and Debrief



Template – Participant Information Sheet for Focus Groups



Template – Focus Group Consent Form


“We recommend that at all stages of a project – from planning through conduct to reporting – educational researchers undertake wide consultation to identify relevant ethical issues, including listening to those in the research context/site(s), stakeholders and sponsors. This means that ethical decision-making becomes an actively deliberative, ongoing and iterative process of assessing and reassessing the situation and issues as they arise.” (BERA 2018: 2)

STEER have designed a new ethical approval process for large scale institutional service evaluations, which will run for more than one iteration.  The application form for a Category Approval of Institutional Service Evaluations (CAISE) can be found here: Category Approvals for Research Ethics Review_Form. A Category Approval can be obtained by completing this application form and submitting it to  for approval by the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC).  It is recommended that all submissions seek advice and guidance from a STEER colleague before submission.

For more details on the distinction between institutional research and institutional evaluation within higher education you can read Austen (2018).More information and guidance can be found here: Category Approvals for Research Ethics Review.


Ethical Resources

@EthicsIR is a Hallam Guild Group which also aims to increase awareness and understanding of ethical principles involved in designing and conducting institutional research/evaluation at Hallam.  They have useful resources for those thinking about research and evaluation ethics, including a useful booklet from their recent Un-Conference: ETHICS IR BOOKLET.

They have facilitated presentations with external speakers including Dr Helen Kara and Professor Megan Lawton.

There are also further resources via the Hallam research ethics pages. These guidance documents may be particularly useful for institutional research and evaluation.

You may also find it useful to consult the British Educational Research Association ethical guidance.

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