Human Participant Research (Policy and Guideline)

York University Policy

The Senate Policy for the Ethics Review Process for Research Involving Human Participants states that all university-based research involving human participants, whether funded or non-funded, faculty or student, scholarly, commercial or consultative, is subject to this ethics review process.

The review of course-related, non-funded, minimal risk research is the responsibility of each Faculty of York University, and data on approved research projects are to be reported annually to the York Human Participants Review Committee by June 30th. (Graduate students who are doing major research papers or dissertations must follow the policy established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.)

Schulich Policy

The following general principles, grounded in the standards determined by York University’s Human Participants Research Committee, apply to instances where students are recruited as research subjects:

I. Participation of students as research subjects is voluntary and they can withdraw from a study at any time without penalty. This is a key feature of the Informed Consent Form, which the participant reviews and signs before engaging in the study. The Informed Consent form also includes information about confidentiality and related concerns.

II. Student participants must have a reasonable alternative to receiving credit if they do not wish to serve as participants. Typically, this takes the form of a short, informal research report requiring an equivalent amount of effort and time as the research opportunity.

III. Professors or instructors may not directly oversee research that involves their own students. Specifically, if a professor or instructor’s students are participating in his or her study, then someone else (typically a research assistant) will be responsible for recruiting participants to the study or alternative option, and managing the data so that the students’ confidentiality is protected. For instance, the professor or instructor will receive grading data indicating students who should receive credit for the program, without identifying whether they participated in the study or in the alternative. Whenever possible this should be provided after completion and grading of all other assignments. In addition, the final research data set that the professor or instructor receives will not have any identifying information in it that can compromise student confidentiality.

IV. In order to make the experience of participating in research more meaningful and transparent, researchers are required to provide a debrief to students explaining the general theme and purpose of the research and the methods used. Students should be given a clear explanation of what the research program is about, why it is relevant to management practice and how it connects to their development as business students. Given the nature of some experiments or studies, finer details about the study hypotheses and theoretical model may be provided after completion of data collection.

V. In order to better tie research credit to the learning objectives of the relevant course, all participants should complete a reflective writing task that ties each completed study to the relevant aspect(s) of their course. This reflection would normally focus on topical aspects of the research study rather than research methods per se (unless the course is specifically concerned with research methods). For instance, an experiment examining the effects of deceptive marketing tactics on consumer suspicion might ask participants to consider the marketing strategies and tactics from their course that could induce consumer suspicion, what might be done to build/repair consumer trust, or how suspicious vs. trusting consumers might respond to marketing strategies in their course. Focusing on application of the research topic, rather than its methodology, helps make each study a unique learning experience and encourages students to recognize the evolving nature of knowledge building in the field.

VI. Research must be academic in nature and cannot be of a commercial nature.

At Schulich, student participation in research studies can be arranged in two possible ways:

  • Through the design of a research component directly integrated into the Faculty Council-approved curriculum of a course (hereafter referred to as “curriculum specified”) or
  • Through agreement on the part of an instructor and students to participate during a particular offering of a course (hereafter referred to as “discretionary”).

The following guidelines further specify appropriate practices in the case where a research component is curriculum-specified or discretionary.

Guidelines for Having a Curriculum Specified Research Component in a Course

Since participating in research can provide educational value, it is logical that it may be specified as part of the Faculty Council (FC)-approved curriculum in certain courses. If not already part of the FC approved course outline, the new research component can be added using the usual course modification process (outlined on the ADA website). A relationship should be established between the research, the course learning outcomes, and the course assessment (grading) scheme. The following guidelines should be adhered to when designing a research component into a course to ensure that participation is voluntary for students and potential course instructors:

  • Students should be informed about the participation requirements before enrolment in the course through the course description or outline.
  • The following information about the research study should be included in the course syllabus and made available to students prior to their enrolment in the course:
    • A generic description of the type of research being conducted, the activities students will complete, and how participation is linked to the course objectives
    • A statement that participation is voluntary
    • An outline of the course credits that can be earned through being a research subject and of the time commitment required to earn the credit for being a subject.
    • A description of an alternative activity or assignment that may be completed for the same credit by students who do not want to participate
    • A statement regarding the HPRC ethics protocol and how it relates to the types of studies in which the students can expect to be asked to participate
  • Research participation will constitute a distinct grading component, separate from class participation and from other graded components of class work.
  • An appropriate grade percentage to allocate to research participation for undergraduate courses in which a research component is curriculum specified is approximately five percent. This is consistent with the understanding that participating in research is relevant to curricular objectives, yet also with the fact that those who fulfill the research requirements, whether through participating in the subject pool for the number of hours specified or through engaging in one of the alternatives specified (e.g. summarizing a journal article or assisting in data collection) will receive the entire grade percentage allocated.
  • Students who choose neither to participate in the subject pool nor to complete the alternative research assignment will be given zero percent for that portion of the course.
  • The research activity shall be run in all sections of a course and should involve all students who want to participate.
  • Instructors who do not want to participate in the research may request to not teach the course.

Policy for Student Participation in Research Studies on a Discretionary Basis

A research component may be introduced into upper year elective courses on a discretionary
basis. As in all research with human subjects, and in particular student populations, students are not required to participate in a research component of a course. The following policy shall be adhered to when designing a discretionary research component in a course or section:

  • As the term discretionary implies, course instructors are not obliged to introduce a research component to their course if it is not curriculum specific
  • Students in courses where a research component has been introduced on a discretionary basis should be informed about the option before commencement of the course through a note added to the front page of the course outline.
  • The following information about the research program should be included in the course syllabus:
    • A generic description of the type of research being conducted, the activities students will complete, and how participation is linked to the course objectives
    • A statement that participation is voluntary and a clarification of the choices available to the student: research participation, the completion of an alternative
      activity/assignment for the same credit as that offered to participants, or non-participation, at no grade penalty.
    • A description of the alternative activity or assignment, as approved by HPRC1
    • An outline of the course credits that can be earned through being a research subject and of the estimated time commitment required to earn the credit for being a subject or the completion of the alternative activity/assignment.
    • A statement regarding the HPRC ethics protocol and how it relates to the types of studies in which the students can expect to be asked to participate
  • Research participation will constitute a sub-component of the class portion of the grade. For example, if the total portion of the grade allocated to class participation is 20%, as many as three percentage points of that twenty percent could be earned by the student through participating as a research subject or by participating in the alternate assignment. Those students who choose not to participate in the research component of the course will earn class participation grades in the conventional manner.
  • It is recognized that the use of this mechanism constitutes an exception to the policies that forbid supplemental assignments and the grading range for the class GPA The positive impact of the credit on a student’s grade, however, must not be so substantial as to significantly influence the final letter grade for a course grade. In the undergraduate program, wherein a grade bucket (e.g., the step from a B to a B+) is roughly 5 percentage points, the percentage that can be earned via research participation cannot be more than 3%. Due to the different grading scale, the limit is 2 percentage points in the masters programs. This will ensure that if most students in a course decide to participate and the course GPA resides at the upper end of the allowed grading range before taking into account percentage earned through research participation, the class GPA will only insignificantly exceed the allowed GPA range for the course.
  • Researchers must keep track of all students who participate in a study, whether through the lab experience or the alternate assignment. The managers of multiple research labs must coordinate lists to keep ongoing records of research participation. A report must also be submitted to the Office of the Associate Dean Academic each semester one month after the last day of classes. The report must contain the students’ names, the course number and section through which they were recruited, the title of the research.
    study for which they were recruited, and whether they participated in the research study itself or the alternate assignment.
  • In practice, there may be discretionary based research opportunities offered in courses in different functional areas (g. Marketing, ORGS, Accounting). Credits earned for research in one area, for instance, marketing, cannot be applied to courses in a different area (for instance ORGS or Accounting). The list of eligible courses and sections is supplied to the students prior to participating in the research study.
  1. The conventional alternative for students who want to participate in the research program but not be a subject is for them to write a research paper. When research papers are offered as an alternative to participating as a subject, students are informed that these papers are not formal term papers and that they are simply graded on a pass/fail basis. Papers can, for example, take the form of a reflection on topics from the course of the student’s choice, or an application of those topics to some phenomenon also of the student’s own choice. An approach used by the Marketing department and lauded by the HPRC as being ideal in terms of equity, is to have the students review a research paper and summarize the main ideas and findings. Students who take this option make an appointment to come to one of the computer labs for an hour, where they read a research paper relating to their course and write a brief paper describing the main conclusions in the paper and its application to their marketing course. The time spent by students in these sessions should be roughly the same as the time research participants spend on their lab-related activities (including reflections, if asked for).