This guidance is designed to support those who work on widening participation and student success in Higher Education (HE). It will help them navigate ethical considerations and deliver best practice in research/evaluation while respecting the rights of participants and minimising any potential harm. The guidance is consistent with the various policies on research integrity that have been agreed upon within UK higher education. It will also support researchers/evaluators working within Higher Education Providers (HEPs) in their interactions with their own Research Ethics Committees (RECs).

To effectively improve access to, and support within, HE for those traditionally excluded, we need high-quality research, committed to respecting the rights of all those involved. This requires more than mere compliance with the legal framework of data collection, analysis and storage. This guidance provides resources to support the work of researchers and evaluators in designing ethical studies.

The guidance consists of a series of documents. The full guidance can be downloaded as a single document.

If you are new to research ethics, you might find this short introduction helpful as a starting point.

The complete guidance includes three documents that explore the broader issues in more detail.

The guidance document

The guidance document provides detailed advice on how to conduct research/evaluation safely and ethically. It also considers a range of common ethical issues experienced by researchers/evaluators. It is divided into sections, each addressing a different theme, that together provide a comprehensive guide to the most common approaches to research/evaluation in the sector.

Each of the sections will be more or less relevant, depending on the type of study you are undertaking.

Early-career researchers/evaluators may want to start with Section C, which describes the ‘standard approach’ to research ethics. This approach embodies a strong, explicit commitment to individual rights and is appropriate for low-risk studies.

The guidance document also includes a series of pro-formas for research ethics documents that may be helpful to users, as well as a list of other research guidance documents freely available online.

Navigation Checklists

The navigation checklists provide a ‘way in’ to the guidance document. These will be particularly useful for early-career researchers/evaluators or those exploring new methodologies. Each checklist consists of a series of questions that researchers/evaluators should consider when designing their study. Each question in the checklist directs the user to the appropriate section of the guidance document to support their considerations. Three navigation documents are included. Checklist 1 is intended to support early-career researchers/evaluators in studies that are designed using the ‘standard approach’ to research ethics. Checklist 2 is concerned primarily with qualitative research studies and Checklist 3 with larger, primarily quantitative, studies.

Case Studies

The case studies provide anonymised real-world examples that illustrate the complexities of thinking through research ethics in practice. While the navigation checklist and the guidance document necessarily reduce research ethics to a series of discrete issues, the case studies show how these issues come together in the design of real studies. There are five case studies, reflecting a range of different approaches to research/evaluation.

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