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Researcher's Toolkit: C1 - Professional conduct

This researcher's toolkit has been developed to offer you practical advice and suggestions to help you design, carry out and write up a research project.



Some of the material you include in your research may be protected by copyright. This may be material you have re-used from other resources e.g. books, journals, websites, maps and photographs. Alternatively it may occasionally be material you have authored yourself where copyright has been assigned to a publisher under the terms of a publisher's contract. 

Copyright law gives the creators of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works the ability to control ways their work is used and to earn a fair reward for that use.  In order to facilitate the use of some of these works to enhance learning and teaching at University of Suffolk has signed agreements including to comprehensive Copyright Licensing Agency License and the Educational Recording Agency (ERA) License.

Creative Commons (CC)Creative Commons Attribution Licence

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. CC licenses provide an easy standardized way to give the public permission to share and use creative works - on conditions of your choice. However, Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright; they complement copyright legislation to enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

Creative Commons licences allow you to label your work as "Some Rights Reserved" instead of  "All Rights Reserved". The rights you retain and those you give to others are expressed through the Creative Commons license you choose.

For example, the CC BY (Creative Commons Attribution) license allows others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered and is recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials. It is recognisable by the above symbol

Notably for academic staff and researchers, the RCUKs Open Access policy now requires that research made freely available through the payment of an Article Processing Charge (APC) should be available under a CC BY licence. Other funders are fare beginning to follow this lead.

Creative Commons: The Ultimate Guide from

Copyright and images

New technologies have made it far easier to create, share, access and use digital images - but using them legally is not so easy. The majority of images available online are protected by full copyright whether or not this is explicitly stated. Copyright owners do not have to make any explicit statements regarding their work. Therefore, the absence of clear copyright license information attached or connected to an image does not mean it is free to use. Copyrighted images require the permission from the website or image owner.  Note: you may have to pay a fee for using the image. 

Always assume an image is protected under copyright unless otherwise stated.Copyrighted images require the permission from the website or image owner.

Note: you may have to pay a fee for using the image


Public domain images

Images in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner. Because such works, including images, can be used without first seeking permission, they are ideal for many projects, particularly those that will extend beyond educational uses. Even so, it is advisable to provide attribution for images in the public domain.  At a minimum, keep a record of the attribution of the work, so that you or other interested parties can find it later if necessary.

Creative Commons images

If you cannot find Public Domain images that fit your needs, you can also use Creative Commons-licensed content as long as you ensure that you correctly attribute this content to its creator and otherwise meet the terms of the license under which the image is offered.

Finding images

JISC Digital Media provide guides explaining where and how to find digital media (images, sound or video) to use in teaching, learning and research.

Copyright and still images: FAQs

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Intellectual property

Intellectual Property is the overall term that refers to all forms of idea protection: patents, design rights,copyright and trade marks. Intellectual Property law can assign certain rights to the creator of: music, literature, artistic works, discoveries, inventions, designs and logos. In its literal sense, it is the property of your mind, or intellect, and, as such, can be claimed as your own and used in a similar way to commercial property: Intellectual Property can be bought, sold, licensed and even mortgaged.

The UK Patent Office is now called the UK Intellectual Property Office to affirm that they help with all forms of idea protection in the UK – not just patents!

More about Intellectual property

Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism and collusion are terms used in higher education to refer to the practice where students present others' material as their own. Plagiarism is regarded as academic misconduct at University of Suffolk and you need to be aware that the institution will take action against any student found to be violating the university policy on plagiarism. Whether intentional or not, plagiarism will cause you to lose marks and possibly face disciplinary action. Plagiarism is not only something that is taken seriously at university, but also in the world of work.  

Essentially, plagiarism is “taking and using another person’s thoughts, writings or inventions as your own without acknowledging or citing the source of the ideas and expressions.  In the case of copyrighted materials, plagiarism is illegal.”  See Cite Them Right Online for more explanation.
University of Suffolk plagiarism guide

Referencing and plagiarism awareness (video guide by UEA) - Hear form staff and students about how to avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism workshop run for postgraduate students Oct 2016

Examples of plagiarism

  • Including others people's words in essays without indicating that they were not your own. 
  • Taking another artist's visual concepts and reproduce it in your own work without acknowledging their influence on your production.
  • Using another person's essay plan to construct your own essay.
  • Submitting work that someone else has done as your own work.

Example of collusion

  • Submitting work as your own work when it has actually been produced with the help of another student.

So how will you avoid plagiarism and still draw upon material from research and lectures?  It’s simple: give credit where it is due and do so accurately.  In addition, consider the following tips:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to gather the resources you want to use so you can familiarise yourself with the content, including the important details relevant to each piece (i.e. author, title, year published, etc.).
  • Provide a reference for any information you’ve made use of that is neither an original idea nor common knowledge.
  • Don’t be afraid to utilise references. Your dissertation should demonstrate your understanding and analysis of the information you've collected, read from books, and discovered through research.  Gathering information and demonstrating your critical analysis shows your progression of understanding throughout your course and indicates you have achieved its learning outcomes.

Benefits of avoiding plagiarism

  • Plagiarism hinders learning as it gets in the way of understanding.
  • Avoiding plagiarism improves your critical thinking anf general study skills.
  • The penalties of plagiarism are serious even if it is not intentional.

Note-taking tips

  • Always keep a record of what you've been reading and where it has come from.
  • If you are taking notes, make sure you indicate to yourself where your own notes start and what you are reading ends. For example, make it clear in your notes if you are copying a sentence which you feel sums up what you are trying to say. If this is crucial to illustrating a point you're making, make sure you use quotation marks in your notes and add who made the quote, the source and the page numbers.
  • Similarly, if a paragraph summarises or illustrates a concept you agree or disagree with, make sure when you are discussing the author's ideas that you make reference to it being their idea.
  • Make it clear in your notes if you are quoting that person or when the ideas you're noting down are coming from someone else and not you.
  •  Making notes helps you form your own ideas about a subject, but it is easy to come back to the notes at a later date and copy parts of them down forgetting that these were not your own words. If you have copied someone else's ideas down word for word and not referenced them as someone else's in your essay, this constitutes plagiarism.

When undertaking a large piece of work, such as a thesis, you need to keep very clear records of your research and you may find it helpful to use a reference management tool such as RefWorks to manage your references, cite them in texts and create bibliographies.

Citing and referencing correctly is crucial. This will allow whoever is assessing your work to see that you have done a variety of reading on the subject and your own ideas have been informed and compared against the ideas of others. If you do not cite and reference other people's ideas, then you could be accused of plagiarism.

University of Suffolk referencing guide

Using quotes

Sometimes you will find that a key author in your field phrases just what you believe about a subject and you can't put it any better yourself. This would be the ideal time to use a quote. After all, that is why they are experts in their field.

  • Perhaps the quote summarises your take on a particular aspect of a subject, and allows you to discuss the subject or idea further in your own words.
  • Be careful not to use too many quotes, however. You are expected to read and understand other people's work to help you form ideas of your own in relation to these.
  • Presenting a piece of work which just includes quotes from others but no thoughts of your own is not good academic practice and will only demonstrate that you have read about these concepts, but not necessarily understood or discussed them. Always use quotes sparingly and to illustrate a point you're trying to make.


  • If you are using a direct quote from something you've read, make sure you copy the quote directly and put it into quotation marks.
  • Make sure you keep a note of the source that you have taken the quote from. If it is a book or journal, note down the page number and publication details. If it's a website, make a note of the URL and the date you accessed it.
  • If you quote lines which are someone else's without attributing them to that person, you could be accused of plagiarism. 


  • You can convey someone else's ideas without quoting them directly in quotation marks but remember, you must still attribute the ideas to them.
  • If you have seen a good explanation or discussion of a topic and want to put it into your own words, make sure it is done in a way which fits with your own writing style and flow of the work. You must be careful not to copy sentences from the passage but construct your own sentences carefully and illustrate that you understand the concept they are trying to explain.
  • Always credit the author of the ideas you are discussing. You do not need to put the page numbers in the text, but you will need to make a note of the work that the idea came from. You would then include the authors name and the date the work was published in the text.
  • You might introduce the authors ideas about the topic by including words like: - Anderson states… - Anderson argues… - Anderson suggests that … - Anderson explains… 
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Research ethics

Research ethics at University of Suffolk
Here you can find information about how you should seek approval for any research activities through the submission of a proposal to a University of Suffolk Ethics Panel. The Research Ethics Framework which applies to all research at the university is also provided.

University of Suffolk is committed to promoting and upholding the highest quality academic and ethical standards in all its activities and has developed robust research governance procedures and policies to underpin all research activities across the university.

University of Suffolk is committed to the implementation of the principles of the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, a national framework for good research conduct and its governance. All researchers should familiarise themselves with this framework.

The University of Suffolk research ethics policy and procedures promote good practice and the conduct of excellent and ethical research. Research is undertaken in accordance with commonly agreed standards of good practice in the Declaration of Helsinki. A risk assessment approach is taken to safeguard the physical and psychological wellbeing of participants and researchers.

The Ethics policy is also concerned with research quality promoting the highest standards of integrity, impartiality and respect for data. University of Suffolk supports a research data archive ensuring material related to published studies can be securely stored in line with funder and University of Suffolk data retention policies. University of Suffolk is working on processes and procedures in place to ensure it adheres to Policy on Open Access publication and is engaging with research stakeholders across University of Suffolk to develop a wider open access policy for its publicly funded research.

Other university research polices and guidance documents can be found in the University forms and policies area All new researchers must make themselves familiar with them and any changes or updates are disseminated widely across the institution. 

All research projects at the University go through the Preliminary Ethical Process (a series of questions designed to identify whether further approval is needed). Projects which need further ethical review then go through the appropriate process before the project is set up and work can commence.

Overall governance of University ethics is undertaken by the Research Ethics Sub-Committee and supported operationally by the Research Development Manager. Additional guidance, including on specific ethical issues and exemplars of best practice are available here.

The Research Ethics Sub-Committee is responsible for developing and implementing policy and for providing guidance on research governance. The Committee is a sub-committee of the Research and Enterprise Committee.

Each of the two Faculties within the University have Faculty Research Ethics Panel (Faculty of Health and Science) and three Ethics Panels at Departmental level (Faculty of Art, Business and Applied Social Science) that advises on and oversee procedures for research projects at the local level.

The Faculty Research Ethics Sub-Committee advises and monitors the Ethics Panels, acts as an appeal body and consider s projects for academic areas that have not established their own committees. The Research Ethics Sub-Committee ensures that policies are implemented at the local level and that processes are streamlined and accessible.

This section provides information on the principle of informed consent, a key aspect of research ethics that should be incorporated into any research project that involves human participants.

Prior to conducting research (except research involving only anonymous surveys, naturalistic observations, or similar research), researchers should, whenever possible, enter into an agreement with participants that clarifies the nature of the research and the responsibilities of each party. Researchers should use language that is understandable to research participants in obtaining their appropriate informed consent. Such informed consent shall be appropriately documented prior to any research being conducted, in accordance with the standards of any professional body. Using language that is reasonably understandable to participants, researchers should inform participants of the nature of the research; they should inform participants that they are free to participate or to decline to participate or to withdraw from the research; they should explain the foreseeable consequences of declining or withdrawing; they should inform participants of significant factors that may be expected to influence their willingness to participate.

When researchers conduct research with individuals such as students or subordinates, researchers should take special care to protect the prospective participants from adverse consequences of declining or withdrawing from participation. Where research is being conducted with children or other individuals who are unable to give consent, or who are unable to understand the nature of the research process for other reasons, special care should be taken to safeguard their interests.

Where children, or other individuals, who are unable to understand the nature  of the research process, may be the subjects of research lack of participation in the research procedures should be taken as a withdrawal of consent at that point. Research with minors and vulnerable adults, e.g. those with mental health problems or learning disabilities, should be undertaken with care.  Where appropriate, Researchers should comply with any additional legal obligations such as obtaining a DBS clearance. The research protocol should detail the role and responsibilities of individuals on whom the research participant is dependent (e.g. parents, carers, ‘gate keepers’), and should indicate how consent is being sought from the participant (‘real consent’).

If Researchers consider that human participants in research are subject to unreasonable risk or harm, they must report their concerns to their manager or other appropriate person in the University and where required, to the appropriate regulatory authority.  Similarly, concerns relating to the improper and/or unlicensed use or storage of human material, or the improper use or storage of personal data, should be reported. For people who are legally incapable of giving informed consent, researchers nevertheless (a) should provide an appropriate explanation, (b) should obtain the participant's assent, and (c) should obtain appropriate consent from a legally authorised person, if such substitute consent is permitted by law.

lf harm, unusual discomfort, or other adverse consequences for the individual's future life might occur, the researcher must obtain the disinterested approval of the relevant School, inform the participants, and obtain real, informed consent from each of them. ln exceptional circumstances before determining that planned research does not require the informed consent of research participants, researchers should consider any applicable external regulations and institutional requirements, and they should obtain the explicit approval of the relevant Department. Researchers will obtain informed consent from research participants prior to filming or recording them in any form, unless the research involves simply naturalistic observations in public places and it is not anticipated that the recording will be used in a manner that could cause personal identification or harm.

Informed consent form template - available from University of Suffolk forms and policy documents area

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Research governance and organisation

University of Suffolk is committed to the promotion of good research practice. The University of Suffolk Research Ethics Policy and Procedures promotes good practice and the conduct of excellent and ethical research. The policy is revised annually to ensure compliance with EU and UK legislation and standards of good practice. The guiding principles of the ethics policy states that research undertaken by staff and students must conform to all legal requirements. This will include compliance with relevant data protection legislation, appropriate screening of researchers working with vulnerable groups and strict adherence to licensing requirements for any animal or biomedical research.

The university provides networking opportunities and training to staff predominately through the Research Development Framework which can be accessed through the Research and Enterprise and Staff Development websites. This area of staff development includes sessions, courses and information to assist academic staff and research degree students in gaining the knowledge of standards, requirements and professional conduct that are needed for the effective management of research. The university works with external speakers to provide training and share best practice.

University of Suffolk states its expectations of its research staff within its Code of Good Practice in Research, and Research Misconduct Policy and other related research policies. The university implements the principles of the 2008 Research Concordat to support the Career Development of Researchers, an agreement between the funders and employers of researchers in the UK, setting out expectations and responsibilities of each stakeholder in researcher careers – researchers themselves, their managers, employers and funders. It aims to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers in the UK and to improve the quantity, quality and impact of research for the benefit of UK society and the economy.

The following is not an exhaustive list but provides a sample of staff and student development opportunities available that relate to research integrity.

Bespoke sessions are held on a regular basis when a developmental need is identified.

  •  Introduction to Research Ethics and Governance
  •  Data Protection
  •  Writing for Publication
  •  Open Access Publishing
  •  REF Equality and Diversity Training
  •  Research Ethics Governance for NHS & Social Care research
  •  Plagiarism

The principles of research integrity are embedded in the early stages of a research career through mandatory ethics training for all new post graduate students and advanced training for students using humans or animals in their research.

The following guidance is recommended to support the ethics policy:

  • Ethical aspects of Research using Information and Communication Technology
  • Researcher Safety: guidance for risk assessment
  • Safeguarding Children in Research Contexts
  • Principles of Good Research Practice for Peer Reviewers
  • Principles of Good Research Practice for Authorship
  • Guiding Principles for Access to Staff and Students by External Researchers
  • Research Misconduct Policy
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Data Protection

Data Protection Act (DPA)1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) sets out rules for processing personal information relating to living individuals. It also gives legal rights to individuals in respect of personal data held about them by others. It applies to some paper records as well as those held in electronic form. The Act gives individuals certain rights and also imposes obligations on those who record and use personal information to be open about how that information is used and requires them to follow the eight data protection principles.

Personal data must be processed following these principles so that data are:

  1. processed fairly and lawfully and only if certain conditions are met;
  2. obtained for specified and lawful purposes;
  3. adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  4. accurate and where necessary kept up-to-date;
  5. not kept for longer than necessary;
  6. processed in accordance with an individual's rights;
  7. kept in a secure manner;
  8. not transferred outside of the EEA without adequate protection.

You are entitled to access the information held about you, except where releasing that information would breach another person's privacy or where an exemption applies. 

You also have rights to prevent data processing which is likely to cause substantial and unwarranted damage or distress, to prevent processing for the purpose of direct marketing, and to correct inaccurate personal data.

University of Suffolk data protection policy


All images included in this guide are available through Creative Commons licensing CC-BY-2.0