Ethics Statement

The team working on ““A Live Pulse”: YikYak for understanding teaching, learning and assessment at Edinburgh” are very aware of the complex ethical and privacy issues of collecting data from social media spaces. We take all privacy and confidentiality concerns extremely seriously.

This page explains our ethics approach for this research.

Focus of the Research

The project is looking at feedback about teaching and assessment which takes place away from University-managed spaces. We are particularly interested in understanding feedback given in anonymous and quasi-anonymous spaces.

We are also interested in understanding the student experience and feedback on issues, challenges, and experiences that could feed into improvements, changes or understanding that would benefit students during their time at the University of Edinburgh.

This work has gone through formal ethical approval processes by the School of Education ethics committee. The project team are also experienced at working with sensitive personal data, including in internet research and social media research contexts. Our approach is strongly informed by the Association of Internet Research Ethics Guidance, which we feel offers the most nuanced approaches to protecting and respecting the privacy of participants in internet and social media research.

This project is affiliated with, and is a follow up to, the Managing Your Digital Footprint (research strand) which has also received separate ethical approval. Good practice developed as part of the Digital Footprint project informs our work and approaches to privacy.

You can read more about the research we are doing on our About page.

How research data is being collected from social media spaces

Social media data is being collected through Yik Yak, Jodel (via screenshots), Facebook and Twitter (transcripts only). Some comments and field notes collected during the project will also bring in other relevant spaces, e.g. Instagram. In all cases personally identifiable information is regarded as confidential and will be removed at the earliest possible point in the data collection process.

Data is being collected by student research associates (RAs) who are undertaking participant observation, an ethnographic approach to collecting data and field notes. There are a total of four data collection periods scheduled for this project, and each involves capturing samples of relevant social media content over the course of a week. RAs will post a status update, tweet, or post – one in each of the channels they are engaging with – at the beginning of each data collection period.

The RAs are working closely with the research team, who are providing mentorship in relation to any anonymity and confidentiality issues that may arise during the periods of participant observation. If you have any questions about this project, particularly around the ethics approach, our research methodology or any privacy concerns you may have, please contact the project PI, Professor Sian Bayne..

Additional social media data is being collected through Yik Yak webpages and the Twitter API for use in text mining processes. The same privacy and anonymisation measures apply in this context.

Further data is being collected through the current Managing Your Digital Footprint survey – which has been through its own ethics and approval process- and through focus groups. Participant information sheets will be available for those participating in focus groups.

Your Privacy and the privacy of your data

All posts will be anonymised through the immediate removal of real names and usernames. This anonymisation process occurs as part of the data collection process and applies both to the original poster and to any individuals who may be mentioned in their post.

No individuals will be named in any project outputs.  No images shared by individuals will be included in any project outputs. Raw data will not be accessible by anyone beyond the research team.

Any images or videos included in a post that is captured for this research will not be retained. Visual content will be captured and analysed through transcribed description only. This helps to preserve privacy and avoids the possibility of raising potential copyright concerns.

Any quotes used in subsequent work or publication will be subject to a thoughtful additional anonymisation process, such as partial quotation or appropriate word substitution that obscure the wording of the original post (so that it is not easily searched for online) without changing the tone of the original post.

Opting Out of this research

If you would like to opt out of this research then you can do this by contacting the project team to request removal of your data.

The project team will be happy to remove specific posts or all of your data from our project. You may need to disclose both your real name and your pseudonym(s) in order to enable us to do this. If you are only active on social media under your pseudonym, this is the only identifying information we will need to be able to remove you and your data from our research.

If you are participating in focus groups associated with this project you can also opt out at any time by contacting the project team.

To request that you opt out of this project contact the project PI, Professor Sian Bayne.

Any Questions?

For any further information please contact the project PI, Professor Sian Bayne.


YikYak for understanding teaching, learning and assessment at Edinburgh