Applying for ethics approval

Writing your ethics application

You can try to make ethics review helpful for you by treating preparation of the application as:

  • a mechanism for discussing ethics within your team, or with your supervisor;
  • a way of preparing you (and less experienced researchers, where appropriate) for fieldwork.

Use the application form as a prompt for discussion and reflection.  How would different team members or colleagues answer questions? Do you share common understandings?  Does anyone have any worries or concerns?  Does everyone know what to do if something unexpected happens?

Whilst this advice may sound time-consuming, it has two key benefits.  First, it helps you get some additional benefit out of a task that you have no choice about doing anyway.  Second, it should help you to write your application, and we would advise that you really do need to spend time on this.  It can be tempting to ‘cut and paste’ or take shortcuts, especially when you are pressed for time, and worried about how long it will take to get ethics approval.  But you will always save time in the long run if you have a thorough and well-prepared application, because you reduce the likelihood that the reviewers will have unanswered questions - and so will increase your chances of the application being approved more quickly.

Summing up

Follow the links to our subsections for more detailed guidance on writing your ethics application.  For detailed information about applying to specific committees (e.g., NHS Ethics Committees) please refer to our key questions. To sum up, however, the key messages are as follows:

  • Spend time preparing a thorough application, because it will save you time in the long run.
  • Include as much information as you can, but tailored to the application itself.
  • Explain your rationale for your approach, and include additional materials in accordance with the ethics committee to which you are applying.
For more information, see: