What is sensitive material and when can I include it in my thesis?

Sensitive material in a thesis might include personal information; please see the ICO guidance to be confident what may be classed as personal data on an individual or commercially sensitive information on an organisation.

Publishing this material online could be a breach of Data Protection legislation.

To use personal data, participants in your research should be fully informed about the purpose, methods, and intended possible use of their personal data within the research, including its publication. You may have considered this already if you created a Data Management Plan.

For example, if you take photographs of people who are clearly identifiable, although you own the copyright in the photos, you will need to get the subject’s consent if you wish to include the photos in your thesis.

Other personal information includes signatures, contact details and information about ethnicity, religion, disability and so on.

Where you have sought a participant’s consent they have the right to request the deletion of their personal data at any time.

If there are issues of confidentiality, you must keep the data you collect anonymous.

Copyright and Data Protection issues overlap with wider ethical issues, such as how you use the data you collect from other people and organisations, and how you get their consent to use their names and ideas. Leeds Beckett has a research ethics policy and procedures which you should consult when doing your research.

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