Office of Research & Creative Scholarship
Student Project Guidelines
The purpose of these guidelines is to define the criteria by which Emerson College’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) will grant general approval for student classroom projects.
The IRB recognizes that an important aspect of a college education is for students to engage in innovative classroom projects assigned by their instructor. In many cases these projects involve the participation of human subjects. If human subjects are involved, these classroom projects must be reviewed by the IRB.
Student projects may include questionnaires, surveys, interviews, audio or image recordings, or other interactions with individuals commonly used in a research methods course.
The IRB recognizes that many of these student class projects involving human subjects pose little or no risk to the participants. Therefore, such projects do not need to be individually reviewed by the IRB to ensure the protection of the human subjects. In these specific cases, the IRB will instead grant a general approval for the classroom-based assignment as a Student Classroom Project. Instructors must submit a full application of their classroom assignment as a Student Classroom Project.
Student Classroom Projects are those conducted during or outside of class with students enrolled in an official course (for credit or not for credit), as well as activities in fulfillment of class assignments involving interactions with individuals other than the members of the class. These assignments are typically initiated and completed within a course. Faculty members may design assignments that engage students in interaction with individuals or data about individuals to teach research methods or to help students understand concepts covered by the course. For the most part, they are not intended to create new knowledge or to lead to scholarly publication or presentation.
In general, if the intent of the classroom project is not to produce new or general knowledge, but to teach research methodology or to demonstrate course material and
concepts, then the student classroom project does not require an individual IRB submission and approval, but can be submitted and approved as a single Student
- A student presentation to fellow class members sharing the results of a survey taken of Emerson students over 18 years of age concerning a non-sensitive topic area
- Interviewing individuals for a project in which the results will only be shared with the faculty member teaching the class and fellow class members
- Student classroom projects involving a program evaluation, quality assurance, or needs assessment for a third party, in which the collected information will remain in the classroom and only be disseminated to the third party agency, may qualify as a Student Classroom Project depending on the individual project.
When class assignments are intended to collect information systematically with the intent of creating new or general knowledge, or might lead to a scholarly publication, the
individual student proposals must be reviewed by the IRB and will not qualify as a single Student Classroom Project. Proposals that satisfy any of these criteria are not eligible as Student Classroom Projects:
- Intent to create a new body of knowledge
- Intent to develop or contribute to general knowledge
- Publish the results of the activity
- Independent research projects such as theses, honors projects, directed study projects, capstone course projects, and any independent study projects that collect data through interactions with living people or access private information
Furthermore, proposals that include any of the following are not eligible for approval as Student Classroom Projects:
- Enhanced risk to the human subject participants
- Enhanced risk to individuals outside the classroom
- Special subject populations
- Sensitive, personal information
Student classroom projects that include a special subject population (e.g., prisoners, young children) or sensitive topic areas and personal information will not qualify for
general approval and must be submitted as individual proposals. Even if the intent is to not produce general knowledge, when a special population or sensitive topic area is part of the project, the students’ projects cannot qualify for general approval.
Categories of sensitive information:
- Sexual attitudes, preferences, or practices
- Use of alcohol, drugs, or other addictive products
- Disclosure of illegal conduct
- Individual’s financial standing, employability, or reputation within the community
- Patient’s medical record and the disclosure of which could reasonably lead to social stigmatization or discrimination
- Individual’s psychological well-being or mental health
- Genetic information
Proposals that do not qualify as Student Classroom Projects should be submitted to the IRB as individual student projects, a professional research project, or other. All of these will require individual review by the IRB. All projects must fill out the application form in its entirety.
The intended audience for this document is faculty members who have courses where classroom projects are likely to be assigned. Individual student researchers are encouraged to review the IRB’s guidelines and resources before submitting a professional research proposal or an individual student assignment proposal. Instructors who engage with students in independent research projects must have each separate student proposal submitted to the IRB separately by the student for individual
review and approval. Application to the IRB for these student research projects must include an endorsement and acceptance of overall responsibility by the sponsoring faculty member as the faculty advisor.
It is the responsibility of faculty members to:
- Ensure student classroom projects are conducted to the ethical standards of human subject research and their discipline.
- Ensure students understand and implement these ethical standards in carrying out their projects.
- Strongly encourage students to take the CITI online training on Human Subject Protection before collecting data, and require it if necessary according to the criteria.
- Submit an application to the IRB as a Student Classroom Project when he/she believes his/her assignment for a course qualifies for general approval.
- Teach students about the ethical conduct of human subject research, including basic human subject rights and the role of the IRB.
- Provide guidance to students collecting information in order to minimize any unintentional harm to other students or individuals.
- Review students' plans for classroom or group projects and, when necessary, suggest improvements in design and protections for confidentiality.
- Suggest that a written explanation of how the data will be used in the course, along with the name and contact number of the instructor, be included when written questionnaires are to be used.
- Instruct students about privacy and security vulnerabilities associated with networked computers and the Internet.
- Follow all Emerson College policies, procedures, and guidelines regarding security, biosafety, and privacy.
A general IRB approval for Student Classroom Projects does not extend to other relevant policies and procedures that may apply to the project.
Contact the IRB Chair, Timothy Edgar, if you have any questions.
Requests for full IRB Committee review Deadlines
If there is a request for a full committee review in the summer, members will conduct the review if available. Please contact the IRB Chair during the summer if you have a request for a full review.