Accessibility toolbar

Could the mixed ethnic terminology and grouping system used in the UK census be improved?

You are being invited to take part in the above study. Please read the information below carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear or you would like more information before you decide to take part in this research.  If you are happy to participate, you will be asked to give your consent.

What is the research about?

My name is Sophia Whittinger, and I am a student at the University of Southampton, studying towards a degree in MSc Sociology and Social Policy. This study is part of my dissertation.

This study is interested in exploring the current terminology and grouping system used in the UK census regarding mixed-ethnic individuals. The research will contribute to an understanding of how mixed individuals answer and experience questions regarding their race and ethnicity.

The research questions are:

Why have I been asked to participate?

You have been approached to participate because:

If you do not meet all these requirements, please do not complete the survey.

I am aiming to recruit around 100 participants for this study.

What will happen to me if I take part?

If you agree to take part, you will be asked to answer a series of online questions which will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. These questions will include topics which will relate to your race, ethnicity, identity and the census. 

Are there any benefits in my taking part?

There are no direct benefits in taking part in this study. However, your contribution to the research can help to lead to a better understanding of whether the UK Census’ terminology and grouping systems are recording mixed-ethnic identity appropriately from your perspective.

Are there any risks involved?

There are minimal risks associated with this study. You may experience some psychological discomfort when reflecting on your experiences. There may be sensitive questions about race and personal opinions. In the unlikely event that you experience discomfort, you may withdraw for the study by not submitting your answers and closing your browser. There are no other foreseeable risks.

What data will be collected?

The data that I will be collecting will be about your opinions on topics related to the UK Census and the ethnic origin question. For example, your opinion about whether the UK system allows you to ethnically identify as you wish. Therefore, some Special Category Data (sensitive, personal data) will be collected, which will be information on your racial or ethnic origin. I will also ask for your age as that data will be a useful comparison tool during the analysis stage. However, no personal identifiable data, such as your name or date of birth will be collected.

How and where data will be stored?

All data collected for the purpose of this study will be stored on a password-protected University of Southampton OneDrive storage space.  Your answers to the survey questions will be stored separately from any identifying information such as your email address, making the survey effectively anonymous. All research data will be securely destroyed after the conferment of my degree in December 2020.

Will my participation be confidential?

Your participation and the information I collect about you during the course of the research will be kept confidential. Only my supervisor and I will have access to the data. In addition, responsible members of the University of Southampton may be given access for monitoring purposes to ensure that the research is complying with applicable regulations. They have a duty to keep your information confidential.

In order to protect your identity and confidentiality, your responses will not be associated with you in any way, and your name will not be tied to your answers.

Do I have to take part?

No, it is entirely up to you to decide whether or not to take part. If you decide that you want to participate, you will need to tick a box on the next screen to show that you have agreed to take part.

What happens if I change my mind?

You have the right to change your mind and withdraw at any time during the study by closing down your browser. Following the submission of the questionnaire, you will not be able to withdraw or remove your data as it is anonymous.

What will happen to the results of the research?

The information you provide me with will be analysed and written up as part of my dissertation. Your personal details will remain confidential.

If you would like to receive a summary of the study results, please contact me on (Sophia Whittinger).

Where can I get more information?

If you have any questions concerning the study, please contact Sophia Whittinger at or Dr Rosalind Edwards at

What happens if there is a problem?

If you have a concern or a complaint about any aspect of this study, please contact the Head of Research Integrity and Governance, University of Southampton, on the following contact details:  email:; tel: +44 23 8059 5058.

Thank you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information sheet and considering taking part in this research.


Data Protection Privacy Notice

The University of Southampton conducts research to the highest standards of research integrity. As a publicly-funded organisation, the University has to ensure that it is in the public interest when we use personally-identifiable information about people who have agreed to take part in research.  This means that when you agree to take part in a research study, we will use information about you in the ways needed, and for the purposes specified, to conduct and complete the research project. Under data protection law, ‘personal data’ means any information that relates to and is capable of identifying a living individual. The University’s data protection policy governing the use of personal data by the University can be found on our website (

This Participant Information Sheet tells you what data will be collected for this project and whether this includes any personal data. Please ask the researcher if you have any questions or are unclear what data is being collected about you.

Our privacy notice for research participants provides more information on how the University of Southampton collects and uses your personal data when you take part in one of our research projects and can be found at

Any personal data collected in this study will be used only for the purposes of carrying out research and will be handled according to the University’s policies in line with data protection law. If any personal data is used from which you can be identified directly, it will not be disclosed to anyone else without your consent, unless the University of Southampton is required by law to disclose it.

Data protection law requires us to have a valid legal reason (‘lawful basis’) to process and use your personal data. The lawful basis for processing personal information in this study is for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest. Personal data collected for research will not be used for any other purpose.

For the purposes of data protection law, the University of Southampton is the ‘Data Controller’ for this study, which means that we are responsible for looking after your information and using it properly. All the data collected for the purpose of this study will be stored securely until the conferment of the researcher’s degree and then destroyed.

To safeguard your rights, we will use the minimum personal data necessary to achieve our research study objectives. Your data protection rights – such as to access, change, or transfer such information - may be however limited in order for the research output to be reliable and accurate. The University will not do anything with your personal data that you would not reasonably expect.

If you have any questions about how your personal data is used, or wish to exercise any of your rights, please consult the University’s data protection webpage (, where you can make a request using our online form. If you need further assistance, please contact the University’s Data Protection Officer (