Research Conducted in a Class

When a faculty member is teaching a class in which students conduct research with human subjects, whether the research needs to be reviewed and approved by the IRB depends on the type of research and who the participants are. There are 3 possibilities:

1) Certain categories of research do not need to be reviewed or approved by the IRB if they are conducted in a class under close supervision of the instructor.

2) Other categories of research conducted in a class may be eligible to be reviewed under a Course Approval process that is designed to be faster and easier than the typical IRB review process.

3) Research conducted in a class that does not fit into categories 1 or 2 above needs to go through the typical IRB review process.

Each of these possibilities is explained in more detail below.

1) What Types of Research Conducted in Classes DO NOT Need IRB Approval or Review?

Neither IRB approval nor review are needed for the following types of research when they are conducted in a class under close supervision of the instructor:

a. Research in which the only participants are the students in the class and the data are collected for educational purposes only.

[NOTE: Research with more than minimal risk would need IRB approval.]

b. Research in some specific exempt categories:

i. Observation of public behavior

ii. Use of archival data that have been stripped of personal identifiers

iii. Anonymous surveys

iv. Other surveys or interviews UNLESS any disclosure of the participants’ responses could reasonably place the participants at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects’ financial standing, employability, or reputation.

[NOTE: Instructors should ensure that surveys on sensitive topics are conducted anonymously.]

2) What Types of Research Are Eligible to Be Reviewed Under the Course Approval Process?

Research that does not fit in the categories described in #1 above may be eligible to be reviewed under the Course Approval process. Any research projects conducted in a class can be reviewed under the Course Approval process if they meet the following criteria:

  • All participants must belong to the CSB/SJU campus community, and all in-person research must be conducted on the CSB/SJU campuses.
  • All participants must be at least 18 years old, and no vulnerable populations can be recruited.
  • The research must pose no more than minimal risk to participants.
  • Projects cannot cause participants to feel physically or psychologically threatened or involve procedures with more than minimal physical pain/discomfort.
  • No names or other personal identifiers can be connected to any research data, and only non-sensitive information may be collected from participants.
  • No deception about risks or other information that could influence individuals’ willingness to participate is allowed.

Complete instructions for applying for course approval, including more detailed descriptions of the eligibility criteria, are available here: Course Approval Process

3) What If the Research Doesn’t Fit into the Categories Described in #1 or #2 Above?

Research conducted in a class that does not fit into the categories described in #1 or #2 above needs to go through the typical IRB review process. The instructor should help students complete and submit the appropriate IRB form(s). As with research conducted outside of class, the first step is to determine which type of review is needed, which is explained here: