skip to content

Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

 
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Undergraduate students

Undergraduate students writing a dissertation involving research participants or using protected data will need to seek ethical approval from the Ethics, Risk and Fieldwork (ERF) Committee.  

Please note: Undergraduate students conducting interviews/focus groups may need to be supervised, and you must provide the details of this supervisor when you complete the form.

Please download and complete the Undergraduate Ethical Approval Form and return it to ugradadmin@polis.cam.ac.uk.

Once the ERF Committee has considered your application, you will be notified of the outcome.

Deadline to submit ethics applications:

Students doing dissertation in 2022-23:

  • Wednesday 9th November, 9 am

Students doing dissertation in 2023-24:

  • 19th June 2023
  • 14th October 2023

You can only do your research once you have approval so please consider which deadline would be most appropriate for your schedule.


Postgraduate students (Masters and PhD)

When planning your research, and before you complete the application form, please consult the following guidance:

When ethical approval is required 

  • This document is drawn from the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics and lists some of the many types of research which require ethical approval. The full ESRC Framework for Research Ethics is available online and is a very useful tool for researchers. Any research involving human participants will require ethical approval, but some participant groups may require more or less safeguarding.

Points to consider when planning your research 

  • This list of points to consider includes examples of areas you will need to have explored when planning your research, writing your proposal and submitting your application for ethical approval.

Example detailed research proposal 

  • This is an example proposal from the ESRC Framework with ethical considerations included.

The Data Protection Act

  • This is a guide to the principles and how you should ensure you protect personal data you have gathered/are using for your research. This predates 2018 and so has been superseded by GDPR (and the associated 2018 DPA update) in many ways, but the guidance in this document all still applies.

When to apply

Step 1: Consult your supervisor and the relevant guidance when writing your research proposal to ensure your study design does not include anything that might be problematic.

Step 2: Select the correct application form using the flowchart below and return it to your Course Administrator by the following dates. 

For MSt: 14th October 2022

For MPhils: 20th January 2023 

For PhDs: submit as part of your first year registration materials in Easter Term of your first year.  If you are applying after the completion of your first year registration, ensure that you apply more than one term prior to the commencement of the research that requires ethical approval.


Ethics flowchart

The procedure you need to follow depends on whether your research involves certain types of data or human participants, and whether the participants are adults, vulnerable adults or under 18.

Each procedure is listed and summarised below:

Download Ethics Flowchart pdf.


Forms

If your research involves adult participants

  • Please submit the (A) Application for Ethical Approval Form and the required documents listed on the form to your course administrator by the dates listed above.
  • You will need a signature from your Supervisor and approval by the POLIS ERF Committee.

If your research involves 'vulnerable' adult participants

  • Please submit the (VA) Application for Ethical Approval Form and the required documents listed on the form to your course administrator by the dates listed above.
  • You will need confirmation from your Supervisor, and approval by both the POLIS ERF Committee and the HSS REC.
  • You may also need to apply for ethical approval from any relevant external committees who have oversight of your participants.

 If your research involves participants under the age of 18

  • Please submit the (U18) Application for Ethical Approval Form and the required documents listed on the form to your course administrator by the dates listed above.
  • You will need a signature from your Supervisor and approval by both the POLIS ERF Committee and the HSS REC.
  • You should also read the additional Guidance for participants under 18.
  • If you are working with schools or other educational institutions then they may also have procedures which you must observe. 

If your research involves access to personal, controlled or confidential data

  • Please submit the (DATA) Application for Ethical Approval Form and the required documents listed on the form to your course administrator by the dates listed above.
  • You will need a signature your Supervisor, to be confirmed by the ERF Committee.

If your research does not involve participants or use personal, controlled or confidential data

  • You will not need POLIS ERF Committee approval but should still obtain confirmation from your supervisor, and submit the Ethics Confirmation Form to your Course Administrator. Confirmation forms are stored by the committee to record that the ethical requirements of the project were considered properly and determined not to require a full committee review.

Staff

Staff need to complete the Staff and Postdoc Ethical Approval Application Form before the research commences and with sufficient time for any feedback from the committee to be incorporated. This should preferably be done even earlier, before a research funding application is submitted, in order to allow time for any feedback from the committee to be incorporated at application stage. It is however recognised that this may not always be practical.

If you have any questions about this process and the documents required, please contact the Departmental Administrator, Emma King (ek564@cam.ac.uk) for advice.  Completed forms should be sent to ERF@polis.cam.ac.uk.


GDPR Compliance

All researchers conducting studies with human participants must ensure that their participant information documents are compliant with GDPR legislation. In-depth details can be found here and here.

If you are unsure of whether your participant information sheet will be sufficient, please include a link to direct your participants to the University's standard GDPR policy for research participants. This will provide a basic level of compliance, but please ensure that you have read the statement too and can provide all of the information mentioned.

We also strongly advise that you personalise and include the following additional Privacy Notice template with your participant information sheet:  GDPR Privacy Template