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  1. Types of courses requiring approval
  2. Project types NOT requiring review
  3. Types of projects NOT allowed under a course approval
  4. Topics requiring discussion
  5. Application process


Types of courses requiring approval

Course ethics review enables undergraduate and graduate students to conduct “minimal risk course-based research activities with a primarily pedagogical purpose” as a part of a course. “Such pedagogical activities are normally required of students (at all levels) with the objective of providing them with exposure to research methods in their field of study (e.g., interviewing techniques)” (TCPS2 2018, A.6.12). Only minimal risk projects are allowed within the course approval. Minimal risk is defined as not raising the risk above the daily normal of the intended participants.

If a student research project starts under a course ethics application, but then grows to become their capstone or thesis, then a separate ethics application is required. Data collected under the course approval can continue to be used for research purposes under the new application.

The types of projects done under a course approval include:

  • Interviews with experts (faculty, government officials, and other folks within their professional setting)
  • Interviews with friends and family
  • Focus groups
  • Surveys
  • Secondary data analysis
  • User testing

Project types NOT requiring review

Professional skill development activities do not require research ethics review when conducted for exclusively pedagogical purposes. Professional skill development activities are done with the purpose of learning a skill with no collection of data for future use. Examples include:

  • Student practicums, this includes teachers and other co-op positions. Information may be gathered in these situations when it is considered to be standard practice within the profession.
  • Clinical settings, this includes training on the use of equipment and interactions between clinical students and patients where students may provide clinical advice to patients. Activities must take place within the scope of disciplinary or professional standards.
    • Examples include learning how to use blood pressure monitors, how to administer standardized testing, and clinician/patient interactions where the patient receives advice or care, and writing lab or other reports as would be expected within a professional setting.
  • Learning interview or survey methods within a classroom where the purpose of the assignment is to practice and learn research methodology and students only interact with classmates. If students will be surveying or interviewing participants outside of the classroom or gathering data for further analysis and dissemination, the course will require course ethics review.

In alignment with the TCSP2 certain study activities do not require REB review. See TCPS2 Chapter 2 for more details. These projects include:

  • Article 2.2 - Research does not require REB review when it relies exclusively on information that is:
    1. publicly available through a mechanism set out by legislation or regulation and that is protected by law; or
    2. in the public domain and the individuals to whom the information refers have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Examples include: Census data from online, public webpages, published materials.

  • Article 2.3 - REB review is not required for research involving the observation of people in public places where:
    1. it does not involve any intervention staged by the researcher, or direct interaction with the individuals or groups;
    2. individuals or groups targeted for observation have no reasonable expectation of privacy; and
    3. any dissemination of research results does not allow identification of specific individuals.

Examples include: Watching people in the street or in a park.

If you are unsure if research requires ethics review please contact

Types of projects NOT allowed under a course approval

Course ethics approvals are not available for projects that are above minimal risk. Research is determined to be above minimal risk if there is a level of risk associated with the study that is greater than the risk that participants face in their daily lives. Course ethics review are also not appropriate for some other types of projects. These include but are not limited to:

  • Faculty research, even if the students are involved
  • Projects that will start before or extend past the course approval
  • Projects that extend past the pedagogical scope of the course
  • Masters Thesis or PhD Dissertations
  • Invasive clinical procedures, i.e. Collecting blood samples
  • Projects involving minors under the age of 14 years old

If student research includes any of the above an individual application for that project will have to be submitted and reviewed independently from the course review.

If a student research project begins under a course ethics review, and the project grows beyond the scope of the course ethics review, a submission for that individual research project must be submitted to the Office of Research Ethics through the Online Application System and approved before any study activities may take place after the last day of the course.

Topics requiring discussion

If any of your student projects involve the following participant groups or topics please contact the Office of Research Ethics through with a brief explanation of the proposed student project. It is possible that the study may require full review.

  • Indigenous Peoples, culture, and artifacts
  • Vulnerable Groups (Ex. people living with mental or physical disabilities, refugees, queer support groups, adults with limited capacity to consent for themselves)
  • Sensitive research topics (Ex. abuse, violence, criminal behaviour)
  • Collecting information about criminal activities

If you have any questions about the review process, a student projects, your responsibilities as an instructor for a course with ethics approval, or anything else about course ethics please contact us.


Application process

All study applications at SFU are submitted through the online application system. Only Faculty at Simon Fraser University are eligible to submit Course Ethics Applications. Sessional instructors will need the chair or another Faculty member to apply for course ethics review on their behalf.

To create a Course Ethics Application, select “Course Application” for the type of submission you are completing. For more information on creating and submitting an application, please review our training materials for the Research Ethics Application System.

Course Ethics Applications must now be renewed on an annual basis as approvals are only for a year, the same as research projects. It is the responsibility of the instructor to note the expiry date and submit an annual renewal request prior to this date. Courtesy reminder notifications will be sent via automated email from the system 90, 60 and 10 days before expiration. Courses expired for longer than one semester will need to be resubmitted as a new course application.

Course Ethics Applications can be amended within the system. A combined amendment and renewal can also be submitted. For detailed instructions, please see our training materials for the Research Ethics Application System.

In addition to filling out the online form you will need to provide:

  • A copy of the current course syllabus and/or outline
  • A copy of any assignment instructions that will be given to students
  • Instructor(s) TCPS2 CORE Certificate

Step by step process of submitting an application for Course Ethics Review.

  1. The course instructor will make the application for the course through the Research Ethics Application System.
  2. The Research Ethics Officer will pick it up, review, and communicate with the course instructor in the application system (not via email) to get the application finalized.
  3. Once the review has been completed, the Research Ethics Officer will send a notification to the Chair of the department using the Ancillary Review function through the Research Ethics Application System. The Chair will receive an automated email notification from the system notifying them that the course application was approved.
  4. The Research Ethics Officer will upload an approval letter into the Admin Notes & Files section of the application.
  5. At the same time, the Research Ethics Officer will upload an Approval Letter template that the instructor will use to approve student projects that are undertaken as part of the course covered by the course approval. 
  6. The Chair will have continued access to all course ethics applications within their department through the Ancillary Review function enabling them to see the current status of all course applications.
Last updated: June 21, 2022