Advice for Taught Students

The following guidance is for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught students who plan to collect or process personal data as part of a project e.g. dissertations, questionnaires, coursework assignments.

When you, as a student, interact with personal data as part of your studies, you have a duty of care to look after the information and to correctly dispose of it when it is no longer required.

You should make use of the Project Planning Checklist to guide you through the stages of your project and what you should consider at each step. We recommend reading through each of the sections, and then writing a clear plan for your project which should include:

  • what personal data you will collect,
  • how you plan to collect it, and
  • what you will do with it after you’ve finished your project.

Within any project, there are three key stages when you will interact with personal data.

1. Before Collection

At the start of your project, you need to decide if you will work with personal data. If you’re unsure what this includes, check the guidance on personal data.

It’s important to decide what personal data you actually need to collect. Minimising the data you collect helps to limit the risk of harm to the participants and can reduce the time you would take to collect and process the information. You should use the Minimum Personal Data Matrix to help decide what data you need to include.

You will also need to identify the lawful basis for collecting and processing the personal data.

2. During Collection

The key thing to remember at this stage is to be transparent with participants about how you will use their data and how long you will keep it for. The simplest way to do this is by providing them with a Participant Information Sheet. You should also confirm that participants are willing to give their consent for their data to be used, through using a Consent Form.

Templates for supporting documents, e.g. Information Sheet, Informed Consent Form, Assent Form etc., are available through LEON (the online ethics system). They are located in the Templates section, under the Help tab at the top of the LEON Homepage.

If you are using an online survey to collect your data, you should use the template for landing page content, which collates all the necessary information from the Participation Information Sheet and Consent Form. You must make participants aware of how they can opt out of the project, should they wish to do so, at which point their personal data must be removed. This also available via the LEON site.

LEON - Loughborough University Ethics ONline

3. After Collection

Make sure you store all the data you’ve collected in a secure location. Your University OneDrive is the best place for this, as it is more secure than personal account cloud storage spaces. It will also be easier to recover your research data if anything is to happen to it.

Avoid using portable physical storage, such as USB sticks and hard-drives, as these are much more likely to be lost or stolen, placing the participants at risk. It is also worth making sure your devices are secure, never left unattended and password protected. The IT Security Tips website offers further guidance on this.

Finally, you need to set a deadline for when you will dispose of the data, and stick to it. Work out how you will dispose of it (e.g. deleting, shredding, etc). Chat to your supervisor or module leader for further guidance if you require it.