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Course Based Research Ethics

Toronto Metropolitan University’s Research Ethics Board (REB) established a new process for the ethics review of course-based research activities. These process changes were prompted by the recent revision to the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS2 2018) (external link, opens in new window)  where it was clarified that the ethics review of research conducted by students is within the scope of the REB’s mandate, even when its primary purpose is pedagogical. This is because the distinction between 'course-based' research for pedagogical purposes and 'real' research may not always be obvious to participants.

The process is NOT intended for individual student submissions but for COURSE-level submissions made by the instructor on behalf of all students enrolled in a course. Lead instructors can submit an application on behalf of multiple instructors/sections if the assignment parameters are the same. The application form allows for variation in individual student projects. Applications should be made through an online system.

The purpose of the review is to ensure that standards of research ethics are followed by students and that they are provided with the resources that will guide them when engaging the community for data collection purposes. Once a course assignment is approved, it can be renewed from year to year, or amended through an expedited process.

Not all assignments involving data collection or engagement with the community will require review. The requirement applies when a course project involves human participants outside of students enrolled in the course, or the use of data that are not publicly available.

This might include:

  • Designing and running surveys
  • Practicing research interview skills
  • Conducting focus groups 
  • Observational activities where individuals observed have an expectation of privacy
  • Secondary analyses of non-public datasets

PLEASE NOTE: This process does not apply to independent student research projects. Major research projects, theses and individualized capstone projects will continue to be reviewed by the REB through the regular review process.

  • Obtaining information from participants who are acting in their expert professional or official capacity (e.g., as employees of an agency or company) regarding their institutional knowledge of organizational practices.
  • Observational activities that do NOT involve direct interaction with individuals and where individuals do not have an expectation of privacy.
  • Professional / vocational practice training, including placements and/or practicums (e.g., practicing client intake interviews or conducting a program evaluation for an organization).
  • Creative practice activities.
  • Making secondary use of datasets for analysis when they are publicly available or protected by law (e.g., Statistics Canada).

Further to the exemptions above, ethics review will NOT be required when the course assignment instructs students to only collect information from other students enrolled in the same course (i.e., data are collected from classmates only).

Under the TCPS2, the ethics review of course-based activities can be conducted by the REB or by faculty committees through delegation from the REB. After wide consultations with faculty deans and a working group with representation from all faculties, the following structure was created for the review process.

Review by Faculty-Based Committees:

Faculty of Arts

Faculty of Community Services

The Creative School

Review by REB Subcommittee:

Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science

Lincoln Alexander School of Law

Faculty of Science

Ted Rogers School of Management

Submissions from across the University will be submitted through a single online portal and will be directed to the respective review committee. You can find the online portal under the Online Ethics Protocol Submission tab on D2L or you can submit a REB application here (opens in new window) .


If you have questions that you would like to send us by email, please use the contact information below:

Faculty of Arts Committee:

Faculty of Community Services Committee:

The Creative School Committee:

For all other faculties and for general inquiries, please contact

Ethics Guidelines and Templates