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Guidelines to Determine if Your Course Project Requires IRB Approval

Federal Regulations governing the protection of human research participants defines research as:

§46.102(d) Research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

Student projects that are conducted solely for a course grade are not considered to be "designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge" and are not subject to IRB oversight.  Individuals who provide information or data for class projects should be informed of the purpose of the study and understand how their information may be used.  Information or data collected for course projects are not meant to be shared with individuals outside of the class.

Student projects presented to anyone who is not on the official class roster may be considered to be "designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge" and may require IRB approval before any participants can be recruited.  Presentations outside the class roster include, but are not limited to, poster or oral presentations to people not enrolled in the class (including the Undergraduate Research Conference), public websites or electronic media, and publications.

Use the HRP-310 WORKSHEET: Human Research Determination to help you determine if your project is Human Research and requires IRB review and approval.  The HSPP staff can also help you make this determination.


When Conducting Course Projects:

Students who are conducting projects for courses are bound by the ethics of their discipline, rules and guidelines determined by their instructor and department, and all federal, state, and local laws. The course instructor is responsible for ensuring that students are knowledgeable and follow all appropriate ethics, rules, guidelines, and laws.

To enhance student learning, the HSPP recommends that students conducting course projects that mimic research activities take advantage of available CITI training for human subjects research and the responsible conduct of research.  CITI training is for educational purposes and is NOT equivalent to IRB review and approval.

There is no "retroactive" IRB approval of research.  If professors and/or students believe that their class project may yield valuable data that could be presented or shared outside of the class, they should plan ahead to get IRB approval prior to data collection.


Please contact the Human Subjects Protection Program (HSPP) for clarification or questions.


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