African Research Ethics and Malpractice Statement (AREMS)

How to write an ethics statement

Other recommendations

The tsika model

How to write an ethics statement

Cite the information below as: African Social Work Network (ASWNET) (2021). African Research Ethics and Malpractice Statement (AREMS). Harare: ASWNET.

A research ethics statement is a detailed account of ethics that (1) will be followed when doing research (proposed or pre-research ethics statement) (2) was followed in research (post-research ethics statement). Statements must be written clearly, they must be appropriate or relevant and enough detail must be provided.

Pre-research ethics statement

It is written in the future tense to support a research proposal to a funder, research institution, other researchers, government, partners, community or ethics committee.

Post-research ethics statement

It is written in the past tense to report research to publisher, journal, funder, research institution, other researchers, government, partners, community or ethics committee and in publications for readers. It is a story that shows how ethics were applied.

What to include in ethics statements?

The table below shows major questions writers, reviewers and editors should expect to be in an ethics statement and the items to include in an ethics statement.

QuestionItems to include
What is or was the gap or rationale or aim for this research?Describe why this research is or was necessary. Describe benefit for the participants and larger community. Is or was there risk, did it over weigh doing the research?
How am I going to or did I engage the community?Describe step by step how you will reach or reached your participants or respondents. Describe local protocols that will be followed or were followed? Describe the consent and permission seeking process including those who consented and did not consent. Show evidence, for example, attach a permission letter.   If you are a researcher from outside Africa, what efforts have you made to ensure that you avoid potential exploitation, dumping of research ethics, power differentials, language and racial differences that may impact this research?
What will participants do or what did they do? How is or was harm, distress and burden managed?Describe what participants are expected to do, step by step, or what they did. This includes how you collected date from them, the tools you. Identify risks and solutions. Describe how psychological, physical, economic or social harm, distress and burden are going to be avoided or how they were managed.
How is or was data managed?It is important to protect the identity of researchers, show how this will be achieved or was achieved. This applies when engaging communities, collecting data, storing data and reporting. 
How accessible are the research findings and publications?How will community or participants know about the results? How will they get access to the publications? Include issues like reporting back to the community through a meeting or workshop, publishing research in local publications, publish summary in local languages, publish results using graphics or audios that are easy to understand and sharing results with policy makers.
Ethics approval from community and ethics committeeProvide evidence to show that the research process got approval from community leaders and ethics committee. Support letters from partners are also useful.
What is your personal reflection of the ethics applied and your own view of ubuntu ethics?End your ethics statement by giving personal views or reflections and restating your ubuntu ethical principles.

Other recommendations

  • Write your statement as a story that flows.
  • Use the correct tense, future or past but at times you use present tense if the ethics process is ongoing.
  • Subheadings can be avoided for the story to flow, but at times other guidelines require you to use headings.
  • Avoid repetition.
  • Using first person language is ok.
  • Adding your own reflection is ok.
  • Avoid citing unnecessarily but you can cite other relevant researchers, ethics guidelines, laws and protocols. Non-written knowledge can be cited.
  • Avoid citing ethics books or articles published from a non-African perspective but rather value and support African literature, ethics guidelines, laws and protocols.
  • Avoid writing or defining ethics and other words related to ethics, the statement is about actions and why they were necessary.

The tsika model

Tsika means good behaviour or simply ethics. The tsika cycle presents a model to use to think about ethics and do ethically rich research. The cycle has 6 stages as shown in the graphic.

Stages researchers should follow

  1. Identifying or clarifying a research gap
    1. The gap should align with local values and tsika, if not then it is not a real gap, but a researcher created gap
  2. Thinking/conceptualising research methods
    1. Thoughts should be shaped by African values and tsika
  3. Self- and community approval of the idea and methods
    1. Decision should be based on African values and tsika
  4. Institutional or research board approval of idea and methods
    1. Decision should be based on African values and tsika
  5. Funding and implementation of approved methods
    1. Researchers should behave ethically in all work and interactions with participants and community
  6. Sharing the experience, results. and reporting any existing gaps
    1. Researcher reports on ethics that were applied, how and offers advice to others

Important resource: San Code of Research Ethics