Research Proposal & Ethics

Note: As of November 2020, face-to-face research with human participants is not approved. If you have an approved protocol, you are reminded that your research involved face-to-face interaction with human participants must be suspended.  For details, please visit:
If you are preparing to submit an ethics protocol, please ensure to your methodology complies with the current requirements. Any protocols with mention of in-person research will be returned to the student until restrictions have lifted.

Thesis and Dissertation Proposals

Proposal Guidelines

In accordance with program requirements and procedures, all students should prepare a thesis/dissertation proposal, normally in consultation with their supervisor. Each program should have written guidelines and should communicate them to candidates, as and when appropriate.

At a minimum, the proposal should contain a brief statement in non-technical language on the purpose of the thesis/dissertation research, its relationship to existing work in the area, and the contribution which the researcher hopes to make to the advancement of knowledge in the field. In addition, the proposal includes a title, the name of the supervisor and the supervisory committee. The title should indicate as clearly as possible the area of research, but it is understood that this title may change. The recommended maximum length of a proposal is 3,500 words, but individual programs may require proposals of a greater length.

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Approval Process

Following approval of the proposal by the supervisory committee, students must submit one or more copies of the proposal to the graduate program director. After confirming that the relevant Faculty and internal program requirements have been satisfied, the program director is responsible for submitting the proposals to the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies using the Form TD1: Thesis/Dissertation Research Submission (.pdf).

As indicated on Form TD1: Thesis/Dissertation Research Submission, submission of the proposal to the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies, includes submission of the relevant research ethics forms and documentation. For more information on required documentation and submission procedures, please refer to the Research Ethics section of this Handbook.

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Approval Timelines

For a master’s thesis, the supervisory committee must review the student’s research proposal and recommend its approval not less than three months prior to the date set for the oral examination.

Please note that the deadlines outlined above are the Faculty’s minimum requirements, and individual graduate programs may have more specific requirements and timelines with respect to the development, review and approval of thesis/dissertation proposals. Students should consult their program for more details. Further, the Faculty deadlines outlined above may not provide the time necessary for ethics approval, if required. More information regarding research ethics is provided below.

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Research Ethics

York University is committed to the highest standards of integrity in research. All projects involving the use of Human Subjects, Animals and Biohazardous Materials are subject to review by the appropriate University committee. York University has formulated policies for the conduct of research involving all three of these areas. It is the policy of the University that researchers conducting research involving human subjects, animals and/or biohazardous agents must obtain approval of their research from the relevant ethics committee prior to commencing research activities.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies is governed by the Senate Policy on Research Involving Human Participants. The Senate Policy states that all University-based research involving human participants, whether funded or non-funded, faculty or student, scholarly, commercial or consultative, is subject to the ethics review process. The <em and corresponding review procedures adhere to the published guidelines of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, known as the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS).

Please note that in accordance with the TCPS and Senate policy, graduate students undertaking research with human participants may not begin that research until their proposal has received approval from the appropriate body. Further, prior to conducting research involving human participants, graduate students are required to complete the TCPS tutorial.

Details regarding the University policies for research involving animals, biohazardous materials, and other research situations is available on the Office of Research Ethics webpage. Ethics guidelines for other research situations include:

  • Invasive Procedures
  • Health and Safety Checklist
  • Surveys and Research in an Online Environment
  • Research Conducted by External Researchers
  • Research Conducted in Hospital Clinical Settings
  • Research in Educational Settings
  • Research Involving Minor Age Participants
  • Research with People who are Homeless

Graduate students undertaking research for graduate courses, major research papers, theses, or dissertations involving human participants are required to follow the appropriate procedures and obtain ethics approval before conducting research activities. Students also must maintain active registration status while conducting the approved research. The information below outlines the ethics protocols and procedures for each category of research.

Please carefully review the procedures that are relevant to your project, and ensure that you complete and submit all of the required documents along with your research proposal to your graduate program. Incomplete or illegible protocols will be returned to the student, which will delay the process. If you have further questions about research ethics review processes, consult the Decision Chart—Full Board and Delegated Ethics Review Processes (.pdf).

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Theses, Dissertations and Pilot Projects Involving Human Participants

Graduate students conducting research for the purposes of completing a graduate thesis or dissertation are subject to review by a delegated ethics review committee comprised of the Associate Dean(s), Research, Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Chair/Vice-Chair HPRC. Where delegated reviewers decide that a protocol should not be approved, the protocol will be referred to the HPRC for full board review.

All graduate student researchers must complete the TCPS tutorial to establish that they have completed the necessary education component and attach their certificate of completion to their protocols. Protocols will not be accepted for review unless a valid TCPS tutorial certificate is attached.

When is Ethics Review Required?

All research involving human participants is considered research subject to review. The Principal Investigator (researcher) of any research project involving human participants:

  • MUST have a protocol that describes how the researcher(s) will interact with the human participants; and
  • MUST have that protocol reviewed and approved by the appropriate Research Ethics Committee before the research commences; and
  • MUST obtain informed consent from ALL research participants. For minor age participants (Those under the age of 16 for minimal risk research), both parental consent and participant assent is required.

NOTE: Failure to obtain ethics approval prior to the commencement of Research Activities is considered both a breach of Senate Policy as well as research misconduct. All such instances of non-compliance will be addressed by the appropriate institutional office.

The ethics protocol forms (TD1, TD2, TD4) and consent forms have been revised as of summer of 2017. Please ensure to use the updated forms available below.

Research Ethics Review and Approval: Forms and Processes

A. Theses, Dissertations, and Pilot Projects Involving Human Participants:

1. If the research is minimum risk*:

*For the purposes of Research Ethics Review, “minimal risk” research is defined by the TCPS as research in which the probability and magnitude of possible harms implied by participation in the research is no greater than those encountered by participants in those aspects of their everyday life that relate to the research.

2. If the research involves Aboriginal/Indigenous Peoples; clinical trials; or research that is more than minimum risk:

3. If the research is conducted as part of or a subset of a faculty member’s approved research project:

4. If the research that is based on secondary data analysis:

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B. Theses, Dissertations, and Pilot Projects Involving Animals or Biohazardous Materials:

1. The research must be conducted as part of, or a subset of, a faculty member's approved research project:

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C. Graduate Courses & Major Research Papers (MRPs)

All research involving human participants for graduate courses and Graduate Major Research Papers (MRPs) that is non-funded, minimal-risk, does not involve Aboriginal peoples or a clinical trial must be reviewed by the relevant unit level Delegated Ethics Review Committee. Research subject to review includes, but is not limited to: surveys, questionnaires, interviews, participant observation and secondary data analysis.

Research conducted for a course or Major Research Paper (MRP) that is more than minimal risk and/or involves Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples and/or involves clinical trials must be reviewed by the Human Participants Review Committee (HPRC).

The review and approval process for ethics related to Graduate Courses and Major Research Papers (MRPs) is facilitated by the Graduate Program. For information on Ethics Review Processes for Major Research Papers and Graduate Courses, please visit the Office of Research Ethics webpage or contact your Graduate Program.

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Thesis/Dissertation Ethics Amendment and Renewal Requests

  1. Graduate student researchers conducting research for the purposes of a thesis or dissertation requesting approval of a change to an approved ethics protocol should complete the Amendment Request Form and submit it to the Office of Research Ethics (
  2. Graduate student researchers conducting research for the purposes of a thesis or dissertation requesting renewal of an approved ethics protocol should complete the Renewal Request Form and submit it to the Office of Research Ethics (


  • Research Officer
    230 York Lanes
    Office of the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies
    Phone: (416)736-2100 ext. 44168

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