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General Ethical Principles for Survey Research in UCC

Survey research in the University can serve many purposes: to evaluate student satisfaction with modules or programmes; to elicit feedback on services; or to gather data for academic research purposes (theses, journal articles). While module/programme feedback surveys usually do not require ethical approval, academic survey research does. In either case, however, there are certain basic ethical principles which must apply.


  1. Purpose
    It is an abuse of participants’ goodwill if we distribute surveys which are not designed to either (a) advance knowledge and understanding, or (b) assist in improving teaching, services or processes within the University.
  2. Informed Consent
    In general, participation in surveys should be on the basis of fully-informed, freely-given consent. Thus, information on the nature and purpose of the study and other aspects should be provided[1]. Particular consideration is required when recruiting potentially vulnerable groups – e.g. students whom you assess, temporary employees.
  3. Confidentiality & Anonymity
    Unless there are specific reasons, participants should be guaranteed that they will remain anonymous. If personally identifying data are required, they should generally be guaranteed that nothing in a research report will render them identifiable.
  4. Non-harm
    Surveys may occasionally touch on very sensitive matters. It is important to inform participants of this in advance, consider how gather the information you need in a sensitive way, and to provide details of supports for those who may be distressed.
  5. Data Storage
    Data must be processed and stored in a secure fashion at all times.


[1] See for more detailed information

University Student Surveys Board

Office of Academic Affairs & Governance ,