Communicaitons, Media and Journalism research group

PGT ethics application approval process

MA International Public & Political Communication;
MA Global Journalism

Students taking Global Journalism and International Political and Public Communication (IPPC) MAs are required to undertake a dissertation (JNL6133 & JNL6100) as a significant part of their course. Of paramount importance in the undertaking, their dissertation project is a consideration of research ethics principles and an understanding of the practical steps required to conduct ethically sound research.

Students on IPPC also have the option to undertake a work-based dissertation (JNL6101) which allows them to undertake work out in the community and use this work as part of their assessment. In addition to the process outlined below, work-based dissertation students also must complete a risk assessment prior to going out to their placement.

As a requirement of their research methods training, students take the compulsory Research Methods module (JNL6210) which, in semester 1 week 6, provides the main content on issues to consider as researchers and the steps required to gain ethical approval in the department. Students draft an outline, in the form of the initial Ethical Approval (EA) application form which is submitted with their critical review assessment in January. This form provides evidence that students have considered any ethical implications of their research and signals to supervisors what further guidance and advice may be required.

Students who do not complete the EA form will receive a mark of 0 for this component of the module and will be required to resubmit the form in order to receive a pass mark for the module.

Any work which may need ethics approval should also comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

Summary of GDPR-related changes to ethics policy

Full guidance on GDPR requirements

PGT dissertation ethics application steps in brief

1. Students undertake the compulsory Research Methods module in semester 1.

2. Students will complete and submit their Ethical Approval application form with their critical review in January. The form is a Google Docs document that the students complete and submit online.

3. Once allocated, students will discuss their EA form with their supervisors and a decision made as to the potential risk of the proposed research (no risk, low risk or high risk).

4. Students then embark on the drafting of their research proposal which must be submitted by the publicised date. The supervisor then assesses the research proposal for the level of risk and the student is informed of this when feedback on the proposal is provided. If students make changes to their research proposal after they have been given a risk level, and they think these changes will affect their risk level, supervisors must be consulted.

5. If the proposed research is assessed as either low risk or high risk, students need to apply for ethics approval using the online system.

6. If the proposed research is assessed as no risk, students should include a statement in the Methods section of the dissertation that indicates that the research has no risks and highlight reasons why this is the case and that the student understands the research ethics implications. If students have re-used data collected by another person, they must indicate that the data was ethically collected, that is, students should know that they are using viable data. Students work that is classed as 'no risk' should be logged in the admin system as with other research ethics applications.

Note: When drafting their online application, supervisors may ask students to draft their ethics application in a Word document because it is easier to provide detailed feedback. Once the supervisor is happy with the Word draft, students will then need to copy and paste their text to the online ethics application system for formal approval by their supervisor. If appropriate, students should also upload an informed consent form at the end of their application. They must use the informed consent template if appropriate. This is a combined information and consent form and templates for these forms are available on MOLE.

7. Supervisors will then provide comments and feedback via the online system and students should respond to any feedback from their supervisor asap.

8. If assessed as low risk by the supervisor and the supervisor is happy with any amendments made, they should then approve the online ethics application and ethics approval letter will be sent to the student by email so that they can begin the research. If the research proposal is assessed as high risk the application will be sent to two other reviewers and may come back to the student for further amendments.

9. Only when students receive their ethics approval letter can data collection begin.

MA Magazine Journalism;
MA Journalism;
MA Broadcast Journalism

Students taking the applied MA programmes in the Department of Journalism Studies are required to step outside of the classroom and engage substantively with the local community. Students taking these programmes are therefore required to undertake specific guidance on journalism ethics and health & safety. Currently the department provides this material on the modules Researching News (JNL6006) and Ethics and Regulation (JNL6014) where ethical journalism practice is explored and discussed.

Applied PGT ethics approval is therefore provided alongside health & safety procedures and the process of approval is in the form of the type 2 generic ethics application.

Students also need to provide an undertaking that they have read and will abide by the following:

The Editors' Code of Practice
The National Union of Journalists Code of Conduct
The Ofcom Broadcasting Code
The BBC Editorial Guidelines
The University of Sheffield Research Ethics Policy

Any work which may need ethics approval should also comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

Summary of GDPR-related changes to ethics policy

Full guidance on GDPR requirements

Applied PGT ethics and health & safety steps in brief

1. Students undertake the aforementioned compulsory modules which deal with the ethical implications of journalistic work and the regulatory requirements their work must abide by.

2. Students then complete and sign an ethics agreement form which declares that they acknowledge that they have read and understood the ethical requirements pertaining to their journalistic work and the University's research ethics policy.

3. On completion of the form students upload the form as directed on MOLE. Failure to complete the form and upload it disqualifies students from undertaking patch work or going out in the field.

4. Students must watch a video and complete an online quiz on journalism safety in order to be able to gain access to the department's media store. Students can only access the form required to borrow equipment if they have scored high enough in the quiz.

5. The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) also produces an online quiz which students are required to take and pass in order to achieve their full NCTJ accreditation.

6. Once students have uploaded their ethics agreement form, the module tutor/programme leader will then review the forms and submit a type 2 generic ethics application for the student cohort via the online system.

7. Once the generic ethics review application has been submitted to the online ethics application system, it is allocated for review by a designated departmental reviewer who has a cognate understanding of the ethical aspects of journalistic practice.