Differentiating between student course-based research and professional skill development

The University of Waterloo encourages students to learn various methodologies and techniques through individual or group projects.

Certain activities may not qualify as course-based research and therefore may not require ethics review if students are:

  • using information-gathering procedures and practices for educational purposes outside the context of a research framework, AND
  • there are no marks or other consideration being given to the methods employed, AND
  • the acquisition of research skills is NOT an objective of the exercise.

These information-gathering projects are not subject to ethics review at the University of Waterloo if the project:

  • aligns with the appropriate standards of conduct and review-processes required by the relevant faculty, and
  • conforms to ethical standards within the profession and do not contain any of the additional risk factors (see exceptions).

When deciding how best to categorize a proposed data collection activity:

  • consider who benefits the most from the data collection exercise,
  • who will be contacted to collect the data,
  • where the data will be used, and
  • the scholarly rigor associated with the data collection activities.

Dissemination or publication of findings does not determine whether something is research or requires ethics review. However,

  • if you wish to publish the findings from your data collection activity or project be sure to contact the intended journal or publication to determine whether they require ethics review as one of the conditions of publication.
  • if there is any doubt as to whether your activity or project requires review, it is recommended that you consult with the staff in the ORE.

For more information or to discuss if your student's data collection activity is research or professional skill development contact the staff in the ORE. We will respond to your inquiry within 48 hours.


Course-based research - requires ethics review

Professional skill development and entrepreneurial activities - may not require ethics review

Exceptions - activities that require ethics review