Research Ethics Board (REB)


The purpose of the research ethics review is to protect the rights of research participants. It has emerged out of gross violations in medical and social science research, where human subjects were lied to, used against their will, or without full understanding of what they are consenting to. An independent review board has been established in all Canadian universities with the expressed purpose of protecting research participants. The principles by which this process is conducted are outlined in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2-2022).

All research involving human participants is required to undergo this process. It is a multi-step process which requires time. Typically, students apply after their proposal defense and approval of the study design by the committee. If applying for the General Research Ethics Board (GREB) before the proposal defense, the supervisor’s letter should address the approval of other committee members. Applications should be submitted a minimum of three months before field research is planned.


The process:

  1. Taking the online ethics tutorial CORE and obtaining the certificate

  2. Starting the application on TRAQ. If you need help with the online application you can sign up to attend a monthly TRAQ training session.

  3. Review the application with your supervisor(s) and obtain a detailed letter of support from supervisor(s). If working in a community or within an organization, support letters from those might be appropriate. If working with vulnerable groups, follow specific sections in the TCPS2 (the most common ones are linked below under resources). If need be (especially for CBR and R-C projects where students may have various additional roles such as artist/activist) consult with any of the members of the unit REB (listed below).

  4. Once submitted, the unit REB members will receive a prompt that an application has been submitted. We will review it within two weeks and in most cases, return it with requests for modifications and clarifications.  The unit REB does not approve applications, it only helps prepare them within disciplinary appropriate standards for the General Research Ethics Board (GREB). When the unit REB is satisfied that the application is complete, we forward it to GREB.

  5. Based on the level of risk for participants, GREB will determine whether the application requires a delegated or full board review. If delegated (most of our applications), the student will hear back within two weeks. If full board, the timeline is longer. GREB might ask for further clarifications before awarding clearance.


In preparation for applying, please consider the following:

To ensure a smooth and expedient review process, please note the following points:

  • While writing your application you need to position yourself in the “shoes” of the participant. What are the risks they might endure? What part of your methodology could affect the participants? In the process of applying, relate the aspects of the methodology as they pertain to participants.
  • If you are working in a multi-jurisdiction situation (e.g., another country; a reserve) you may need to obtain ethics clearance there. Once obtained, the process at Queen’s is simplified.
  • To find out which activities do not require ethics review (e.g., art practices under certain conditions; observation in public space) consult chapter 2 of the TCPS2-2022
  • Please note that all submissions to GREB must be done online. The TRAQ/Romeo interface that is provided by the Office of Research Services is mostly user friendly. If you have any questions or trouble signing in please contact the TRAQ/Romeo Sustainment team by sending email to or by calling tel. 533.6000 ext. 78426.
  • If you have different groups of participants (i.e., professionals as well as individuals; interviews and surveys) you will need a different Letter of Information (LOI)/Consent Form (CF) for each group. Similarly, you will need to supply the questionnaires/surveys for each group and identify risks/benefits for each group separately.
  • If you identify various recruitment methods, you will need to supply copies of each (for instance, posters, email to various groups, social media, etc.)
  • Before submitting, review the “New Letter of Information and Consent Form Checklist” (under “LOI/CF information”) and the Guidance on Completing and Reviewing the Standard GREB Application form (under “Application Form Resources”). Both are on the GREB website.
  • For how to store data securely, please consult Research Data Management page on the Library website.
  • It is vital that you provide enough turnaround time for the internal REB process and GREB review, particularly if you are dealing with sensitive issues and vulnerable populations.

Please be advised that during the university closure over the winter holidays applications will not be reviewed. In addition, in July and August, response times may be slower than normal because members of the unit REB committee are engaged in intense research and often travel.  As always, we make our best effort to respond in a timely manner.




Suggested Readings:

  • Elizabeth Miller, et al. Going Public - The Art of Participatory Practice. UBC Press, 2017
  • Reed, Patricia. "Co-Autonomous Ethics and the Production of Misunderstanding." Fillip
  • Tuck, Eve. “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities.” Harvard Educational Review Vol. 79 No. 3 Fall 2009
  • Tuck, Eve and Guishard, Monique. “Uncollapsing Ethics: Racialized Scientism, Settler Coloniality, and an Ethical Framework of Decolonized Participatory Action Research.” In Kress, Tricia M., Malott, Curry Stephenson, and Porfilio, Brad J., Eds. Challenging Status Quo Retrenchment: New Directions in Critical Research. Information Age Publishing. 2013. 3-27.
  • Younging, Gregory. Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples. Brush Education Inc, 2018.


Unit Research Ethics Board mandate

The Cultural Studies (CUST) Unit REB is charged by the Queen’s University General Research Ethics Board (GREB) with providing initial research ethics review for Cultural Studies research that involves human participants in accordance with GREB Policy – “Unit REB Policies & Procedures”. The bulk of this work is carried out electronically, using the Queen’s Human Ethics Application e-System (TRAQ/Romeo). The CUST REB meets on an as-needed basis to deal with non-routine applications or questions of general policy.

Other duties include:

  • Raising the profile and understanding of research ethics issues and procedures among members of the CUST community. This includes annual presentations about research ethics and the review process in the SPEAKS series.
  • Making and revising ethics-related policies, to be approved by Steering and included in the CUST policy document.
  • Presenting a regular report to Steering, via the CUST REB Chair or delegate.
  • Ensuring that appropriate expertise is available for reviewing applications, by maintaining a pool of faculty who have done the training for ethics review.


Unit Research Ethics Board members

Chair: Ayca Tomac

Last updated: July 2024