Writing your proposal

How to assess risk, harms and benefits

Use the list of questions here as a starting point for reflecting on the possible risks, harms and benefits of your planned research.  Work through this list as you are preparing your proposal – it covers the sort of questions that funders will consider when assessing your application.

  • What questions will the study address?
  • Why do they matter?
  • How widespread and how serious is the question being researched?
  • If methods are being tested or compared, are they new methods or already widely used? what alternative methods might there be?
  • What exactly will participants be asked to do? How much of their time will be needed? Will they be compensated for their time?
  • What direct risks might there be to them? Intrusion? Distress or embarrassment?
  • How likely and how severe might any risks be?
  • How might risks be reduced? For example:
    • rehearsing with respondents ways of saying ‘no’ when they do not want to reply;
    • assuring them that this will be respected and that they won’t be  questioned about why they refuse; or
    • ensuring people who are worried or upset about the research can talk to someone about it afterwards.
  • It can be useful to find out gently why people want to refuse. Does the research seem boring or irrelevant? Could it be improved with their help?
  • How can people contact the researcher if they want to make further enquiries, or complain?
  • Are there systems in place to review complaints and then possibly change research plans?
  • How will the study’s findings be used?
  • If there are any hoped for benefits, what might these be?