UCL Anthropology


Ethics Protocol

For Undergraduate and Masters Students

What do I need to do before embarking on my dissertation / thesis research?

Please go through the following flow-chart and ensure that you have read / submitted the correct information. If there is any element that is unclear please consult your supervisor. Do not just ignore this and hope it will go away.

Q1: Is my project a library based project or might I collect and analyse my own data or analyse secondary data collected by someone else?

  • Library based - no further permissions needed - Go and start your research 
  • Analyse data collected by someone else - go to Q2
  • Possibly do fieldwork / collect my own data - go to Q3
  • Definitely do fieldwork / collect my own data - go to Q3

Q2: I will be analysing data collected by someone else

  • Are these data already in the public domain /open access with no copyright restrictions?
  • YES - no further permissions required
  • NO - need to ensure you read and follow copyright / other privacy restrictions and obtain written permission from data owner if required

Q3: Fieldwork and collecting your own data

If you MIGHT do fieldwork or you definitely WILL do fieldwork, you need to think about the ethical and risk implications of your work. This is NOT just a question of filling in the forms but of really thinking through possible risks to yourself and your respondents and the ethical implications of your research.

You may not, under any circumstances, collect data for your undergraduate / masters' dissertation without having first obtained ethical clearance. Depending on the nature of your project, this approval may be given by the Anthropology Research Ethics and Risk Committee (ARERC), the UCL Research Ethics Committee (UCL REC), the NHS ethics committee. If you are planning to do your research overseas you must also get permission from an appropriate body in the country where you will be working which is often likely to be a further Ethics committee

  • Will these data be harvested off the web or from some other digital source?
  • Will your data involve talking to / observing human beings and / or the spaces in which they are found?

STEP 1: You MUST read:

  1. Anthropology: Applying for Research Ethics Approval
  2. The ASA (association ofSocial Anthropologists UK) ethical guidelines
  3. UCL Research Ethics Committee guidelines

STEP 2: Think about your proposed research methods and project

  • I don't know: Talk to your supervisor, talk to the chair of the ethics committee and discuss whether there are ethical issues, whether you need to change your methods (eg exclude interviews with children) or you need to apply to UCL REC or NHS Ethics. Then go to Yes /No
  • Yes: [This makes things very easy ] go to STEP 3 and follow the STEPs to 7
  • No: (e.g. you will be working with vulnerable people and your research could generate problems (mental health, distress, safety and security or other) for them; working with children; working with people who may be unable to give informed consent; working in a dangerous environment; recruiting patients through NHS) Do steps 3,4,5 and go to STEP8

STEP 3: Complete the research registration / data protection from. You will need the project number from this exercise for step 5. If data protection reply to you saying that you do not need a data protection number please state this on your ethics application form.

For more formal data collection methods with literate people (interviews, focus groups, group discussions etc) you will need a consent form. An annotated  template consent form (simpler than the one provided by UCLREC)  is available here. You need to obtain consent both for undertaking the research and (under GDPR) for storing / processing personal data (not anonymized). You must adapt this to your project.

STEP 4: Read and Complete Fieldwork / Approved code of practice which MUST be signed by supervisor and deposited with undergraduate administrator (Jolanta) or PGT / PGR administrator as appropriate

STEP 5: Read and complete risk assessment form
STEP 6: Complete Anthropology Department ethics form. Please copy and paste the relevant exemption category from (http://ethics.grad.ucl.ac.uk/exemptions.php)

STEP 7: Submit all forms to UG administrator / PGT administrator / PGR administrator (as appropriate) AND GET your departmental ethics approval number once the application has been signed off. [you will need to retain this number in case you need to prove your approval, or, in the eventual case of publishing your study.]

Deadlines for Anthropology undergraduate students Ethics approval

  • 11 June 2018 - students conducting fieldwork over the summer.
  • 31 October 2018- students conducting fieldwork in Term 1.
  • 12 January 2019 - intercalated students

For projects that need to go to UCL Ethics committee

(ie EITHER you cannot indicate an exemption category OR your funders / someone else requires you go through the Institutional committee)

STEP 8: Complete UCL Ethics form [depending on your project you may also need to initiate DBS (Disclosure Barring Service checks]


  1. Submit UCL ethics form to Chair of Anthropology Research Ethics and Risk Committee (ARERC) for review, amendments and signing off and to get departmental ethics approval number for reference (Chair will liaise with appropriate administrator over correct numbering records)
  2. Submit UCL ethics form to UCL committee
  3. Submit all other forms including ACOP to UG / PGT /PGR administrator with departmental ethics approval number
  4. When you receive UCL approval give a copy of approval to UG / PGT /PGR administrator

All fieldwork projects: overseas permissions

  • Is all my data collection taking place in the UK?
  • Yes: No further permissions needed - once you have completed STEPS 1-7 / 1-9 above
  • No: UCL requires that you get ethics clearance (ideally) and /or permission from an institution in the country you are going to work in. If there really seems to be no way in which this can be done you must show that you have taken reasonable steps to obtain any local permission required. You MUST discuss this with your supervisor and decide on the appropriate permissions. Read the options below

OS OPTION 1: Check whether you need a research visa / research permit [ in some countries you are not allowed to do any research, including undergraduate research without a research permit]. If you do need a research permit / visa apply using the appropriate channels and deposit a copy of permit / visa with the rest of your ethics / risk forms with the appropriate administrator

OS Option 2: If your research will be undertaken under the umbrella of an organisation (eg: NGO) check with them whether you are covered by their research permissions: get them to send an email to you confirming that you are covered by their research permissions AND their ethical clearance. Make a photocopy of the email exchange and deposit it with the rest of your ethics clearance

OS Option 3: Not working under the umbrella of an organisation: You must try to get some form of permission to work in the country.

This could be from

  • Local ethics committee
  • University ethics committee
  • Permission from an administrator

This permission may just be in the form of an email from an organisation / local administrator confirming that they are happy for the research to take place on their premises / in their district. A copy of such permissions must be deposited with the appropriate undergraduate / postgraduate administrator

OS Option 4: Impossible, despite several (documented) attempts to get permission AND the research is sufficiently in the public domain to conform to ASA guidelines, ensure that the research is carried out ethically and retain evidence of attempts to get permission www.theasa.org/ethics.shtml