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Module 1: Getting started with research: IRB

The Institutional Review Board (IRB)

When conducting a research experiment, you also need to consider the ethics involved in your project.

Most research experiments require approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). IRB approval is required before you start your research.

IRB review is generally required for:

1. SURVEY, INTERVIEW, FOCUS GROUP, & OBSERVATIONAL RESEARCH: Most survey, interview, focus group, and observational research involving human subjects should be reviewed by the IRB.

2. EVALUATION RESEARCH: The IRB will review evaluation projects such as those which collect data on a new course, technique, or pilot study to assess the effectiveness of the method or material, especially if the results are likely to be presented or published.

3. RESEARCH ON EXISTING DATA: If you are human subjects through the study of already existing non-public data, documents, or records, the project must be reviewed by the IRB. If the secondary data from a publicly available source (e.g., published census data or test scores; newspaper articles), you do not need to file with the IRB.

4. STUDENT PROJECTS: Independent research projects involving human subjects to be conducted by undergraduate students are normally reviewed by the IRB. Approval must be obtained before the project can be initiated.

5. CLASSROOM PROJECTS: IRB approval should be obtained for class research projects if (1) data will be collected from a human subject (e.g., opinions, behaviors, feelings, personal information), regardless of the sensitivity of the data, OR (2) the results of the classroom research project will contribute to generalizable knowledge (e.g., by publishing — including theses; presenting outside the class; citing in another paper; poster presentations).

IRB approval is required before you start your research.  When in doubt, contact the Chair of the IRB Committee, Dr. Sarah Garrison at

IRB application forms are found at My D&E , scroll to Forms, then Institutional Research.


History of IRB