When to start applying for ethical approval?

06-Jun-13, 14:01
edited about 29 seconds later
by ultimax
Avatar for ultimax
posted about 7 years ago

I'm just under 6 months into my PhD programme on a low-risk social science qualitative study involving mainly interviews. My supervisor has suggested I start drafting my ethics application form and send it off as soon as a I can. I had a look at it and it asks for fairly detailed information. I've not finalised my research design so I don't really have all the details I think I need. My supervisor seems quite keen that I get approval ASAP, though.

Is there an advantage doing ethics now, as opposed to later when I have a better idea of what's feasible, and what's not? I suppose one might argue it's always better to have approval now as it's easier to request for an amendment subsequently if necessary, but is that really the case?

When did you guys (working on a low-risk topic) start applying for ethical approval?

06-Jun-13, 14:45
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for HazyJane
posted about 7 years ago
Estimate how long you think it will take you to get ethical approval. Now double that, and add six weeks.

That might sound OTT, but it really can be a painful process. Even 'low risk studies' can be a palava. Not the actual approval by the committee bit - that can be quite straightforward - but rather all the steps you need to do to get to that stage.

Are you applying to an internal ethics committee, or an external one? The latter will probably take longer as it might need to be reviewed and signed off by various people before it goes out.

So I would definitely get started now, even if you don't know all the details yet. It can actually help you organise your thoughts about your proposal. At the very least, identify all the relevant departmental/institutional signatories you will need to get to look at your form, and see if there is any general advice at your uni about ethics applications.
06-Jun-13, 14:55
by ultimax
Avatar for ultimax
posted about 7 years ago
Thanks HazyJane!

It's an internal committee. They meet each month. As far as I can tell, I need to submit the application to just one and they'll sort it out for me.

I suppose it's better to see ethics as a process that involves many drafts rather than a one-off affair of submitting the perfect application the first time round.
08-Jun-13, 13:13
Avatar for Natassia
posted about 7 years ago
Hi Ultimax, I think that you may as well start drafting it now, the better it is the more you will able to use for your methodology chapter as it will help you to organise your thoughts. I wrote my ethics form and my methodology chapter at the same time (moderately risky qualitative methodology although the sample was fine and accessible) so was able to cut and paste certain sections, which saved a lot of time. My ethics form ended up being quite long but I got through with no corrections, I still think of that as a major fluke but I can advise you not to worry about making it too long or too wordy if that helps you with the methodology chapter, the reviewers know what they are looking for and will not be too bothered about reading through extra content as long as the essentials are there. I submitted mine on the last day of the Autumn term and got it back on the 4th Jan, I was very lucky though!

Re: amendments, I haven't had to make any but I've heard from others they they are fairly easy to sort out, and I think the process of writing your ethics form will help you to iron out any of the issues that you may be predicting at the moment. I've made a few amendments during the research process but I haven't had to declare them to the ethics committee, it's only the major things that you need to notify them of.

Hope that helps!


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