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Research Involving Humans

Student Research Ethics Drop-In Sessions

Submitting an ethics application when you are working with human participants can be challenging. However, the Research Ethics Board is here to help! We are happy to announce we are offering instructional drop-in sessions over Zoom! Weekly sessions start on October 26th.

Do you have questions about how to submit an ethics application, revision, modification, or progress report? Need help navigating our ROMEO system? Wondering what you can do to ensure a smooth review process? We can offer advice on a wide range of topics, from general ethics guidelines to how to submit any sort of application.

Join our virtual drop-in sessions every Tuesday from 2pm – 3pm on Zoom

(Note that you must be signed into Zoom to attend.)

Do you have questions specific to your application, or about a reviewer memo you received? Please email us at to get more individualized feedback.

REB Guidance During COVID-19 Outbreak

REB approvals do not supersede any current University guidelines or measures in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 including restrictions on university laboratory, field, or in-person research activities.

REB Review Timelines

Please be advised that average REB review timelines will likely be delayed at this time as the REB continues to experience a high volume of new applications, modifications requests, research resumption requests, and inquiries.

Research Resumption of Laboratory, Field, or In-Person Research Activities

If you plan to resume or begin any laboratory, field, or in-person research activities your faculty supervisor must first receive approval through the University research resumption process. The REB will not review or approve any research protocols that involve laboratory, field, or in-person research activities until the required University research resumption approvals are in place.  Please see the Student Research Ethics Guidelines for Resuming In-Person Research for more information.

REB research resumption guidelines are based on University and Public Health guidance and will continue to be updated accordingly as the situation continues to develop.

Moving Previously Approved In-Person Studies to Remote Methods:

If you are planning to make any changes to a previously approved project, including moving an in-person study online, you must submit those changes for review via the standard modification request process prior to implementation of those changes. Please see Romeo Research Portal for instructions on submitting a modification request.

When making these changes you should carefully consider the nature of your protocol, the type of participants engaged in the research, and any additional risk that may arise by switching from in-person to virtual communication. Revised participant consent forms and processes and/or other materials may be required (e.g., updated privacy considerations with use of different communication channels, updated recruitment process and materials, using alternative methods to document consent).

Remote Research Guidelines:

When preparing to submit a new application or modification request that involves remote research, please ensure you review the relevant research ethics guidelines and ensure your protocol is in compliance. The relevant guidelines are summarized below. Please see General Ethics Guidelines page for full details.

  • Software Solutions: When selecting software solutions for research activities it is strongly recommended that you utilize properly vetted solutions to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of research participants. ICT has informed the REB that the following solutions are recommended for use in research:
    • Data Sharing and/or Storage: OneDrive for Business
    • Online Survey Systems: Qualtrics
    • Videoconferencing:  Microsoft Teams has been approved for use with all data types and is the preferred videoconferencing platform. Zoom for Education has been approved for Type 1 (open) or Type 2 (internal) data. Zoom for Healthcare has been approved for Type 3 (restricted)​ data​ (see policies 9.4 Information Security Policy Statement and 10.4 Records Management)
Note: REB guidelines pertaining to software solutions are based on expertise provided by ICT. These guidelines will continue to be updated based on ICT recommendations. Any questions pertaining to software access or use should be directed to the ICT service desk.  
  • Online Transmission of Participant Data: It is recommended that any online data transfers are done using encrypted protocols (e.g., https, sftp, etc.). Details on online data transmission and any limits to confidentiality should be clearly described in the informed consent statement.
  • Documenting Informed Consent: When conducting research remotely you must ensure to demonstrate to the REB how you plan to document informed consent. Please note that regardless of how consent is documented, it is generally advisable to provide a written statement of the information conveyed in the consent process with the participant. Examples of methods of documenting consent include:
    • scanning and/or e-mailing signed copies of consent forms
    • oral consent documented in some form of recording (e.g., consent log, audio recording)
    • building a consent form into your survey and utilizing checkboxes to document consent (e.g., Qualtrics)

The Tri-Council Policy Statement 2: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2) describes the principles, standards and procedures for governing research involving human participants in Canada. It is the basis for research ethics review at Laurier. All research involving human participants is governed by Laurier’s Policy 11.13: Ethics Review of Research Involving Humans and requires clearance from the University Research Ethics Board (REB) before any research begins.  As a student planning to conduct research that involves human participants or human biological materials, you will have to obtain ethics clearance to ensure your research meets all relevant ethical guidelines.


What happens if I do not follow the TCPS2 and the University's policies and guidelines on research with human participants? 

Failing to follow TCPS2 and university policies or guidelines, applicable laws or regulations on research with human participants may be considered as research misconduct and a breach of the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research and University policy 12.2 Student Code of Conduct: Academic Misconduct. This applies to all research projects involving human participants regardless of funding status. Researchers must ensure that all of their projects that require REB review and approval, receive the REB review and approval prior to commencement of the project, and that the research is conducted as approved by the REB (either via original approval or a modification request). If unsure about whether your project requires REB review and approval you should consult directly with the REB

Research that May Be Exempt from Research Ethics Board Review

Some research may be exempt from Research Ethics Board (REB) review. Determination of exemptions is based on institutional or regulatory criteria, including information provided in Chapter 2 of the TCPS 2 (2014), Articles 2.1-2.6. Please contact the REB for more information if you think your research may fall under one of the following categories.

Note: Anonymous is distinct from anonymized or coded data that was initially collected with identifiers. Secondary use of anonymized and coded data is required to undergo REB review. Please see Identifiability of Information and Secondary Use of Data for details.

Departmental Research Ethics Review

If your research qualifies for departmental ethics review, you must fill out a request for Departmental Research Ethics Committee Review and submit it to your department's research ethics committee (REC) along with the signed Checklist for Departmental REC Review form. If your department does not have a REC, you will need to submit your ethics application to the Research Ethics Board. Please note that all Research Ethics Board applications are processed using the ROMEO research portal and require submission of a different application form.

Before You Apply

Plan REB Application Submission Timeline

Research Ethics Board (REB) review is a multi-step and ongoing process involving administrative review, initial REB review, resubmission, and review of resubmissions. It is the principal investigator’s responsibility to ensure that the research team is able to meet any time sensitive deadlines and that projects are feasible to complete within restricted timeframes. Please ensure you review the REB's timelines and review process, and plan the submission of your REB application accordingly.

Complete the TCPS 2: Course on Research Ethics (CORE) Tutorial

All Laurier researchers must complete the TCPS2 CORE Tutorial and submit the certificate(s) of completion with their ethics application. 

Determine Review Process Required

Departmental Research Ethics Committee (REC) Review

Your research activity may qualify for departmental research ethics committee (REC) review if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • Your research involves virtual methods only (e.g., online survey, interviews over the telephone or on Microsoft Teams) and does not involve any in-person research activities.
  • You and all members of your group are undergraduate students.
  • Your department has a departmental REC.
  • Your research activity is course-based (i.e. not undergraduate theses or equivalent research projects such as directed studies and major research papers). Such pedagogical activities are normally required of students with the objective of providing them with exposure to research methods in their field of study. Examples of course-based research activities include:
    • Structured or semi-structured Interviews with key informants working in a particular area/field (e.g., professors, not-for-profit organizations, employers)
    • Surveys with family/friends/other students/members of the general public
    • Focus groups/group interviews with employees or members of an organization or group
  • Your supervisor/instructor will not be using the research data as part of their own research program and data will not be used outside of the course.
  • Your research activity is considered minimal risk to human participants (see below).
  • Your research does not involve Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
  • Your research does not involve individuals, groups, or populations in vulnerable circumstances. This includes individuals who lack decision-making capacity (e.g., children, those living with cognitive impairments, persons who are not able to legally consent to participate in research).
If any of the above criteria is not met, the project must be submitted to the University Research Ethics Board (REB).

What Is Minimal Risk Research?

Minimal risk research is research in which the probability and magnitude of possible harms implied by participation in the research is no greater than those encountered by participants in the aspects of their everyday life that relate to the research.

Types of risk may include physical, psychological/emotional, and social. Examples of research topics and procedures that may be considered higher than minimal risk include:
  • ingestion, tasting, smelling, application of a substance that pose any health risk
  • answering questions related to sexual or physical abuse, as well as self harm and suicidal thoughts or actions
  • providing medical/health information or clinical diagnoses (e.g., depression, anxiety) particularly if associated with identifiers
  • reporting on illegal activities

If you are not sure whether your research qualifies as minimal risk, contact the Research Ethics Board for information and advice.

Research Ethics Board Review

Your research must go through Research Ethics Board (REB) review if it does not meet all of the criteria for departmental REC review noted above.

Research that May Be Exempt from REB Review

Some research may be exempt from REB review. Determination of exemptions is based on institutional or regulatory criteria, including information provided in Chapter 2 of the TCPS 2 (2014), Articles 2.1-2.6. Please contact the REB if you think your research may fall under one of the following categories:

  • Research that relies exclusively on publicly available information when it is accessible to the public and appropriately protected by law, or publicly accessible and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g., Statistics Canada public use files).
  • Research involving the observation of people in public places (e.g., stadium, planetarium, beach, museums, parks, or library) where there is no intervention staged by the research or direct interaction with the individuals or groups, those under observation have no reasonable expectation of privacy, and any dissemination of research results does not allow identification of specific individuals.
  • Research that relies exclusively on secondary use of anonymous information or anonymous human biological materials, so long as the process of data linkage or recording or dissemination of results does not generate identifiable information.
    • Note: Anonymous is distinct from anonymized or coded data that was initially collected with identifiers. Secondary use of anonymized and coded data is required to undergo REB review. Please see Identifiability of Information and Secondary Use of Data for details.
  • Laurier students on co-op placements or similar work terms may be asked by their employer to undertake a variety of projects and assignments involving human participants. Such projects will be exempt from REB review when the project is used exclusively by the employer (i.e. it will not be used for academic purposes at Laurier) and there is no reference or association between the project and Laurier.
  • Creative practice activities in and of themselves do not require REB review (e.g., an artist makes or interprets a work of art). However, a creative practice that seeks responses from participants whose responses will be analyzed to answer a research question is subject to REB review.

Note: Various university policies, agreements and privacy legislation further regulate the use of data collected and maintained by Laurier. Researchers seeking access to such data should ensure compliance with these items. Please see Privacy and Access at Laurier for more information.