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Institutional Review Board  

Classroom-based Activities

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) recognizes that many students conduct research projects with human subjects to fulfill course requirements. Such research occasionally entails certain risks to the subjects. Because students vary in their expertise regarding research procedures designed to protect the welfare and rights of human subjects, the IRB has developed guidelines regarding classroom-based research projects, intended to clarify and simplify the process for obtaining IRB approval for classroom-based research projects. The guidelines are summarized below.  

Faculty may submit a request for Classroom-Based Protocol proposal (in lieu of a regular IRB research proposal) if all of the following criteria are met:

  1. The subjects are placed at minimum risk.
  2. The subjects are not drawn from vulnerable populations.
  3. The subject matter of the research project is not sensitive.
  4. The findings of the research project are not intended for publication or presentation off-campus.

Instructors must have approval from IRB before initiating classroom-based projects. 

Be sure to plan ahead and submit your Classroom-Based Protocol Form well before the planned class activities. The instructor is responsible for informing students about the IRB process, as well as overseeing all projects to assure that ethical violations do not occur. Any violations should be reported immediately in writing to IRB.

Minimum risk

The risk to subjects is considered to be minimum whenever the risk of physical or psychological harm is no greater in probability and severity than that ordinarily encountered in the daily lives, or in the routine medical, dental or psychological examinations of healthy persons [45 CFR 303(d)].

Sensitive Topics

Student researchers who want to investigate opinions, behaviors, and/or experiences of human subjects in sensitive topic areas must submit a regular IRB application. Sensitive topics include:

  • Sexual orientation
  • AIDS and HIV
  • Incest, rape, or date rape, sexual abuse
  • Substance use and/or abuse
  • Eating disorders or behaviors
  • Contraception, pregnancy, or abortion
  • Questions dealing with subjects’ physical or mental health
  • Religious orientation and/or views
  • Veteran or wartime experiences
  • Illegal activities

Vulnerable Populations

Student researchers must have a faculty member file a regular IRB application for any project that systematically targets human subjects from a potentially vulnerable or sensitive group and asks questions regarding their opinion, behavior, or experiences. Vulnerable or sensitive groups include:

  • Children (under the age of 18)
  • Persons who abuse illegal substances
  • Cognitively impaired persons
  • Prisoners/arrestees
  • Traumatized or comatose patients
  • Persons seeking emergency treatment
  • Institutionalized persons
  • Persons geographically located outside the U.S.
  • Terminally ill personal

How to Request Review for a Classroom-Based Protocol

  1. Carefully read the 'Guidelines' for Classroom-based Protocols as described above and verify that all student research projects satisfy the requirements with respect to minimum risk, anonymity, vulnerable populations, sensitive topics, and publication.
  2. Download, complete, and submit theClassroom-based Protocols Form (in Forms on IRBNet) and the course syllabus on IRBNet.

Last edited by msmith@unca.edu on February 3, 2013