All research at the University of Queensland must be carried out in an ethical manner, following standard research practices such as:

  • accurate and fair quoting of sources
  • providing full references for quoted material and other sources which inform a research project;
  • developing research conclusions based on evidence which is clearly explained and argued, whether in an assignment for assessment or in a published article.

Students receive training in these standard research protocols in their undergraduate, fourth-year honours, and postgraduate courses. The expectation is that staff and students carrying out research will behave ethically at all times; and that they will inform themselves about ethical procedures and policies relevant to their research projects.

Staff and students whose research involves humans, that is, who interact with humans as part of their research (see full definition below), are required to apply for and receive ethical clearance before they commence such interactions.

Research involving humans falls into one of two categories: Low & negligible risk or high risk.  Each involves a different ethical clearance process:


Research involving humans, or interaction with humans as part of research.  

What this means is that, in order to carry out your research, you need to talk to people or interact with them in some way. You may wish to:

  • interview people, whether in person, on the telephone, or by email
  • conduct surveys, whether in person, on the telephone, by email, or on the web
  • require people to undertake certain actions, which you observe or record
  • request information from people on topics relevant to your research. 

In all these cases, you ask people to give up their time to you and to make information or opinions available to you for your research. In effect, you ask for their help so that you can carry out your research. It is important that the people with whom you interact as part of your research are treated with respect, and with awareness of their social and cultural circumstances and beliefs, including where these differ from yours. 

You should:

  • give information about your research project honestly to these people
  • inform them of the reasons you are carrying out your research
  • explain its value
  • behave responsibly in the way their contributions are treated in the research project and in any assessment or publications which result from it.

Students should discuss the ethical implications of their research projects with their supervisors, and should allow adequate time to obtain ethical clearance if this is required. Discuss the ethical implications of your project, including whether you need to obtain ethical clearance, with your supervisor as early as possible in your research.


Further resources