Research Ethics and Compliance

Research Ethics

All students have a responsibility to conduct and report the results of their research in an open and ethical manner.

A thesis or dissertation represents the culmination of years of academic preparation and uniquely expresses a student's training, skills and ideas.

A thesis or dissertation therefore deserves the student's greatest effort and demands compliance with the highest ethical standards.

Ethical Misconduct in Research

Ethical misconduct in research is any "fabrication, falsification and plagiarism in proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities."1

Fabricating research findings refers to making up fictional results, while falsifying research results refers to altering, misrepresenting, or selectively reporting findings.2 

Each of these acts violates the integrity of the research process and constitutes a serious breach of accepted ethical standards.

Ethical research practice therefore requires that students at all stages of the research process conduct their research in an open and honest manner and make every effort to ensure the accuracy of their findings.


Plagiarism is a form of ethical misconduct in research and consists of the intentional or unintentional "use of the words, ideas, diagrams of publicly available work without appropriately acknowledging the sources of these materials."3

Thus, any use of the words, phrases, ideas, or work of others in any form without acknowledging the original sources constitutes plagiarism and is subject to serious penalty.

Students should be aware as well that the ordering of ideas in a discussion, the content of a literature review, and the listing of references at the end of a discussion may reflect the thinking of others. Such contributions must be acknowledged.4

Students at the University of Oregon are expected to maintain the highest ethical standards in proposing, conducting and reporting their research in the thesis or dissertation.

Graduate Student Research Compliance

"Research Compliance" refers to the process by which the university, in accordance with federal law, certifies that research activity is conducted in a legal and ethical way.

"Clearance" is the process by which the university proves your compliance.

The Division of Graduate Studies requires that all graduate students using human (i.e., living person(s) about whom you obtain data through direct interaction/intervention or otherwise acquire personally identifiable information in your research) or animal subjects in their research obtain permission (and a protocol number) from either Research Compliance Services or Animal Welfare Services before beginning data collection.

This is especially important because many graduate students:

  • Collect data by survey or questionnaire;
  • Conduct research involving interviews;
  • Conduct thesis or dissertation research abroad;
  • Conduct research involving live or dead vertebrate animals.

 Students using human or animal subjects must receive permission (and a protocol number) from either Research Compliance Services' Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects or Animal Welfare Services' Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

These offices may also be contacted for protocol review schedules, information on the preparation of subjects, and a detailed explanation of procedures.

Failure to follow the procedures below may result in a recommendation to the dean of the Division of Graduate Studies that the university not accept your thesis, project, or dissertation.

  1. Consult with your departmental graduate advisor concerning details of the proposed thesis/project or dissertation and formation of an appropriate committee.

  2. If your research involves human subjects, obtain approval for your research protocol from the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) before collecting data.

  3. If your research involves animal subjects, obtain approval for your research protocol from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before collecting data.

  4. When you submit your application for graduation, you will be asked to enter your approved protocol number.

Human Subjects

In accordance with the federal policy on the protection of human subjects (DHHS Policy 45 CFR Part 46, effective August 19, 1991), the University of Oregon assumes the responsibility for the protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects who participate in research and other activity projects conducted by, or under the supervision of, faculty, staff, or students.

You must have the approval of the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects/Institutional Review Board (CPHS/IRB) prior to engaging in any research project, including but not limited to surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews as well as other sorts of physical tests or experimentation, involving human subjects.

Approval applies not only to thesis and dissertation research, but also to research for class projects and internships if there is a possibility that data will be published or maintained for later use.

Review committees are unable to give post facto approval.

Surveys, Interviews, and Data Analysis

Surveys, interviews, and data analysis represent a subset of human subject research.

Even if you believe that your survey, interview questions, or use of a data set are perfectly innocent, you must file a protocol with the Office for Protection of Human Subjects.

That office will determine whether the project needs minimal review (exempt category) or a full review.

Research Abroad

A research project involving human subjects occurring outside the USA does not eliminate the requirement for full institutional compliance. The university is answerable for your procedures whether here or abroad.

Research approvals and appropriate visas from the host country may also be required. These, however, do not substitute for university compliance.

Research clearance must be obtained before you begin your travel or initiate research with animal or human subjects.

Research with Animals

If your research involves live or dead vertebrate animals and is not already included in an approved protocol filed by the faculty member with whom you work, you should contact the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at Animal Welfare Services, 541-346-4958, to obtain information and guidelines on animal use.

1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Fostering Academic Integrity: Report of the Committee on Academic Responsibility (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 15 April 1992), 3.

2 Ibid., 8–9.

3 University of Washington Graduate School, Style and Policy Manual for Theses and Dissertations, rev. ed. (Seattle: University of Washington Graduate School, 1991).

4 Betty Lou Dubois, “Ethics in Research,” in Guidelines for Preparing a Thesis or Dissertation (Las Cruces: New Mexico State University Graduate School, 1989), 1–2.