Research Involving Human Subjects: Overview

The University of Toronto requires that all graduate student and faculty research involving human subjects be reviewed and approved by the relevant institutional Research Ethics Board (REB) before work can begin. 

​Every researcher using human subjects has the obligation to be familiar with the University of Toronto policies on research. Ethics approval must be received from all relevant Research Ethics Boards (REB) before the research commences. Students must seek ethics approval for a new project, or if they are joining an ongoing project they must be certain that their research has already received ethics approval and that they are named on the proposal. This applies to student research as part of a graduates course or degree requirement, thesis research, and/or as part of research conducted by any student or faculty member at the University of Toronto whether or not the research is funded.

As required by Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS), REB review and approval is required for research involving living human participants and/or human biological materials from living and deceased individuals. Research is defined as “an undertaking intended to extend knowledge through a disciplined inquiry or systematic investigation.” Researchers are encouraged to take the TCPS Online Tutorial

Research requiring REB review includes, but is not limited to physical interventions, focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, or in any way systematically gathering any personal information from individuals. Ethics approval may be required for all research involving secondary use of data (or information collected for purposes other than the proposed research). Student research involving human participants must be “sponsored” or supervised by a faculty member. The faculty sponsor or supervisor must sign the application and oversee the research. The signature of the chair or dean is also required. 

For the most up-to-date information on policy, guidelines, submission requirements and ethics-related frequently asked questions, please visit the University of Toronto, Office of the Vice-President, R​esearch and Innovation​ website. ​