Department of Anthropology: research ethics guidance

All anthropologists undertaking research must carefully consider the ethical issues that might arise in their research and writing, and act with responsibility to the people they study, research assistants, colleagues and the discipline.

Anthropologists have a responsibility to anticipate problems and insofar as is possible to resolve them without harming the research participants or the scholarly community (ESA) 

Recognising the specificity of the nature of anthropological research, the American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics (2009) states: 

“No code or set of guidelines can anticipate unique circumstances or direct actions in specific situations. The individual anthropologist must be willing to make carefully considered ethical choices and be prepared to make clear the assumptions, facts and issues on which those choices are based.” 

Before completing an ethics review for your research, please refer to the following frameworks which convey the prevailing disciplinary consensus on ethics in anthropological research: 

Association of Social Anthropologist Ethics Guidelines for Good Research Practice (1999)

American Anthropological Association Ethics Forum  

AAA Committee on Ethics Briefing Papers on Fieldwork Dilemmas

All staff and students undertaking ethnographic research must complete the online LSE ethics review form, instructions for which can be found here. In addition to the disciplinary guidance above, staff and students should also be familiar with the LSE Research Ethics Policy. It is assumed that long-term projects carried out over years will only need to complete an ethics review form once, however if there are any significant changes to the research or fieldsite circumstances, it should be updated (in the first instance please contact

Specific instructions for students and staff

PhD students: besides discussions of concrete ethical issues that may take place in the context of meetings with supervisors throughout the pre-fieldwork (MRes) year, students have a dedicated two-hour session of general ethics training as part of AN471, the fieldwork methods course. This culminates in the writing of the research proposal; at the same time they are required to complete and submit an ethics review form. Supervisors will review this and approve it or, where necessary, submit it to the School's Research Ethics Committee for approval. The process is monitored by the Department's Doctoral Programme Director.
The ethics review, along with the student's Research Proposal, must be submitted ahead of their upgrade as these will be discussed at the upgrade viva.

Undergraduate students
 doing research must complete and submit an ethics review form.  The class teacher or the director of the summer ethnography project, as appropriate will review this and will either approve it or, where necessary, submit it to the School's Research Ethics Committee for approval. Where deemed necessary, the Undergraduate Tutor can be consulted. 

Academic and research staff must complete and submit an ethics review form. The Department’s Research Ethics Champion (the Research Committee) will review and approve it or, where necessary, submit it to the School's Research Ethics Committee for approval. Staff are advised to consult the department’s Principles of best practice for collaborative research:  ‘data’ ownership, authorship and power.