Students as Research Participants

Students are often used as participants in research studies, by University student, faculty, and staff researchers as well as researchers from other universities and organizations. Because of their unique position, University policy addresses several issues pertaining to the use of students in research projects.

Types of Activities Covered by this Section:

Some course work involves research-type activities that serve an entirely pedagogical purpose. For example, professors may have students administer surveys or psychological instruments to each other in class so that they can practice interviewing techniques. These activities are NOT considered research (as defined by Federal regulations or this policy), and do not require IRB review. Projects in which students include other students in studies that are not designed for use beyond a course are not considered research as defined by federal regulations or this policy (i.e., results are not shared outside the classroom and data do not contribute to “generalizeable knowledge”)(e.g., administering an anonymous survey to students in the dining hall regarding food service, the data from which is only used in the pertinent class). These studies may, however, require review and approval by other parts of the University administration.  It is the investigator’s/course instructor’s responsibility to determine what policies and regulations apply to their situation. 

Research involving normal educational practices typically falls under an exempt review category (see Form B) under 45 CFR 46.101(b)(1) and must be submitted to the IRB for exemption certification. Informed consent procedures must be followed, though. In many such cases, students cannot opt out of participation in the intervention, because the intervention may be the pedagogical techniques routinely used in the class. In such studies, the instructor should provide information on the research at the beginning of the course. This information should offer the student the option to refuse to have his or her information (e.g., grades) included in the study. If the study is conducted at another school (e.g., student teaching assignment), informed consent must be obtained in accordance with the rules of that school, as well. In these studies, the informed consent must include a contact person to address questions regarding the study who it not the instructor or graduate assistant assigned to the course.

Research that is exempt under 45 CFR 46.101(b)(2) and (3) and all non-exempt research must follow the recruitment and protection policies set forth in this section.