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Glossary of terms


Any work which involves collecting information from or about service users, their relatives and carers and employees of the council (staff). It includes surveys, focus groups, consultations, reviews, evaluations, best value audits and student projects. It does not involve the routine collection of management information.


An organisation (likely to be the council) taking the primary responsibility for ensuring:

  • the design of the study meets applicable standards
  • arrangements are in place for appropriate conduct and reporting
  • all the necessary agreements are in place and are documented.

The sponsor is usually but does not have to be, the main funder. The sponsor might be a local authority, a university or a research foundation.

Research co-ordinator

The council officer who is the official point of referral for all prospective research applicants.

Research approvals group

The body responsible for considering any research proposals that involves direct or indirect access to service users, their families, friends or carers. Membership comprises the Research Co-ordinator and other relevant members of council staff, e.g. Data Protection Officer.

Main or principal researcher

The person taking overall responsibility for the design, conduct and reporting of the study.

Research team

Other researchers who, with the main researcher, comprise the people conducting the study, including field workers.

Research supervisor

The person responsible for the management of the researcher(s) and the research.

Nominated link officer

A named council officer, usually an experienced manager, appointed to provide a link between the council and the researcher. This person’s role is to facilitate access to research participants and to oversee and monitor the progress of the research on behalf of the council. S/he is not responsible for providing support and advice about the research itself.


Service users, their relatives and carers and council staff or contractors engaged by the council who are subjects of the research.

Research proposal

The written document that defines the research topic, methodology, timescale and is a plan showing how the research will be carried out. It accompanies the application form and should also address the criteria set out in the research proposal guide. Along with the application form, the proposal must be approved before the research study can begin.

Intellectual property rights

Ownership of the research will usually reside with the principal researcher or the research team. For research that has been commissioned, i.e. funded by an external organisation or group, depending on the contract, it is possible that the intellectual property rights will lie with that body. Sponsorship of a piece of research will not necessarily confer intellectual property rights on the sponsor.

Non-negligent harm

Research should do no harm to its participants. Occasionally, however, through no fault of the researcher, distress or harm can be caused unintentionally. If any responsibility is consequently moral rather than legal, a decision may need to be made around how to redress the situation. This may be through the normal council complaints procedure or otherwise. It is advisable to plan for such eventualities before the research commences.

Data protection

Confidentiality is essential in research and researchers should be aware of data protection legislation and local authority procedures and requirements for data protection.

Informed consent

Researchers have a responsibility to ensure the interests of the research participants are respected. The agreement of potential participants must be sought prior to commencement of the research.

Consent should be obtained in writing and must be freely given, based on a full understanding of the purpose of the research and what will be required of participants. A copy of the consent form should be provided with the application for approval.

Children and vulnerable adults are unlikely to be able to give informed consent themselves and researchers will need to address this issue in the research proposal if it is intended to involve people who cannot give consent personally.

The researcher has a duty to ensure that sufficient information is given to enable participants to choose whether they wish to take part in the research. Participants should be made aware that they have a right to withdraw from the research at any time and that exercising this right will in no way affect the level or quality of services they receive.

Participant information sheets

Prior to starting the research, an information leaflet needs to be produced and this must be given to all participants before seeking their agreement to take part in the research.

As a minimum this information sheet should include:

  • what the research is about
  • the researcher’s name and contact details
  • how and why the participant was selected
  • how to withdraw from the research
  • how to complain
  • what information will be gathered
  • what the information will be used for
  • what will happen to any information, e.g. interview tapes, questionnaires etc. after the research has been completed.

It should also be in the participant's own language and be accessible to people with disabilities and include braille versions.