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School of Business Student Research Ethics Committee (SBSREC) Approved May 2002

To help instructors determine whether a class project requires a formal ethics review, the following set of guidelines have been developed by the School of Business Student Research Ethics Committee (SBSREC). The guidelines differentiate projects that are exempt from an ethics review from those that are not.

These guidelines do not include the following types of project which must be reviewed by the main McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB):

    • Projects that are a direct extension of the course instructor’s research;
    • Projects involving more than minimal risk as defined by the Tri-Council Policy Statement;
    • Projects applicable to a Ph.D. student’s own dissertation work.

If a student project has any characteristics of a non-exempt project, regardless of the number of characteristics it may have of an exempt one, then that project must be considered non-exempt and subject to an ethics review.

If an instructor is unclear whether a student project is exempt or non-exempt , he or she should contact the Chair of SBSREC.


The following projects are exempt from an ethics review:

      • Projects involving the use of records or information that is in the public domain. Examples include, but are not limited to, the use of anonymous secondary data, and surveys or questionnaires that have already been published;
      • Projects involving the use of naturalistic observation where it is obvious that participants choose to be public and where participant confidentiality and anonymity are ensured;
      • Practicums or job training projects at organizations where students are fully integrated into the organization’s operational practices and are not conducting research (e.g., collecting and analyzing research data);
      • Projects where students are invited to observe various facets of a business organization without the intention of testing a research hypothesis.  Examples include company information sessions, tours, product launches;
      • Projects where no primary data is being collected.

The following projects are not exempt from an ethics review;

    • Projects where primary data is being collected. Examples include participant observations, surveys, questionnaires, interviews;
    • Projects designed to answer research questions;
    • Projects involving a risk of disclosure, publication, or use of data outside the classroom or outside the organization being studied;
    • Projects where students require consent to use individual identifiers in reports or classroom presentations because of confidentiality or privacy concerns;
    • Projects where “ownership of information” or “product development” as a result of a project may become an issue;
    • Projects where the SBSREC believes an instructor is not educating or instructing students about the ethical conduct of research.