Classroom Research Projects Involving Human Subjects

The purpose of such research projects is for the student to apply what is taught (i.e. use skills outside of the classroom) as well as learning to contribute to existing research literature in a field. Therefore, class projects involving human participants in research are required to undergo review by the IRB if the findings will be: 

  • submitted for publication presented at conferences or meetings, 
  • presented at URCAD or other research presentation venue, or 
  • used for future research 

An instructor who wishes to make use of this abbreviated review procedure, must first review each student’s topic to determine its acceptability and then submit according to the procedures described below. 

Choosing an Acceptable Topic 

Only non-sensitive information may be collected from non-vulnerable participants. No personal identifiers (e.g., name, social security number) may be included on questionnaires.  Voluntary participation of individuals, without any coercion or pressure being placed upon them by the researcher must be obtained. 

The following types are examples of projects that CANNOT be approved by instructors through this review procedure: 

  • Any project involving participants under the age of 18 
  • Any project involving collection of confidential information that could place a participant at risk if disclosed. 
  • Any project involving deception of participants 
  • Any project in which participants could reasonably feel physically or psychologically threatened by the investigator (including use of weapons, verbal threats, striking an intimidating pose) 
  • Any project involving collection of information about participants’ own:
  • sexual history (including AIDS, rape, date-rape, abuse, use of contraception, pregnancy, abortions) 
  • religious orientation and views 
  • mental health history (including suicide ideation, depression, eating disorders, compulsive behaviors,  treatment for psychiatric disorders 
  • substance use and abuse (including alcohol and illegal drugs) 
  • war experiences 
  • criminal history 
  • racial, ethnic biases or views 
  • medical history 

Vulnerable Populations (for the purposes of classroom research) may include: pregnant women, fetuses, participants under the age of 18, prisoners, persons at high risk of incarceration or deportation, or mentally disabled. Projects involving such subjects require IRB review and submission of a protocol for approval prior to beginning the research. 

Although students may not collect personal information of a sensitive nature from participants, they may ask participants to make judgments about behaviors of anonymous others. For example, participants may be asked to read about a crime and be asked to judge the appropriateness of the sentence as a factor of characteristics of the perpetrator. Regardless of the project, students may not use language that is inflammatory (including racial or sexual slurs and obscenities). 

Course instructor responsibilities 

A Class Project Research Application must be submitted each semester. Please access the Kuali Protocols Portal to create a Classroom Research Project application. The Kuali Protocol User Guide has a searchable table of contents to the specific sections of Guide to assist you in creating a protocol. . 

The application includes a descriptive title of each student project, the student investigator’s name, the type and estimated number of subjects that will be enrolled and a description of how confidentiality will be maintained. Instructors of these courses will be considered ex-officio members of the IRB during the semesters when they are teaching research courses.  

Each instructor has the responsibility for: (1) assessing whether student projects/classroom activities involving human participants meet eligibility for review or exclusion from IRB review; (2) overseeing these activities; and (3) assuring that ethical principles are adhered to in the conduct of those activities. Faculty advisors of both undergraduate and graduate students must be certified to conduct research with human subjects by completing the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training program. 

Instructors are encouraged to become fully familiar with each student’s project(s). Use this checklist (link to below) to assess whether or not classroom projects meet the criteria for class project review. It is also important that instructors who teach research methods courses educate students regarding the IRB, the purpose of human subjects regulations, and the relevant ethical issues surrounding the use of human subjects in research. The ORPC staff is available to present information human subjects research in your class – for further information, please contact the ORPC at 

Have a Kuali technical issue or problems with access?  Contact the ORPC on this online form and we’ll send your issue to VPR Research Administrative Systems 

Use of the consent process 

As student projects will not be individually reviewed by the IRB, the instructor is responsible for ensuring that student properly inform potential participants about the purpose of the study, how the data will be used, and stating that the data are anonymous, etc. Class research projects are granted an exemption from IRB review; student investigators, like all UMBC researchers, are ethically bound to follow the principles listed in the Belmont Report, particularly the first principle, respect for persons, which emphasizes the importance of ensuring that subjects are fully informed about the nature of a research project in order to make an informed decision to participate. The use of a signed consent document, for example in cases of anonymous data collection, would not be required, but those participants must be informed about the purpose of the study. A student investigator will use an oral consent script explaining the purpose of the study, how the data will used, how the data will be kept anonymous, etc.   A sample of an applicable consent documents may be used and uploaded to the Attachments Section of the Kuali Protocols.

Classroom Research Project Checklist 

UMBC instructors: Please use this checklist to assess whether classroom research projects may be reviewed by the IRB’s Classroom Project review process. Be aware of the below “red flags” when reviewing projects. Students wishing to conduct such projects will require independent IRB review. 

For questions relating to such projects, please contact the ORPC at 

  • The research project is to be performed by students enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate course at UMBC as a requirement for completion of the course. 
  • The overriding and primary purpose the project is as a learning experience in the methods and procedures of research. 
  • The instructor is fully aware of all aspects of the research project and will take responsibility for overseeing the project and assuring that ethical principles are adhered to in the conduct of those activities. 
  • The project involves minimal risk to subjects (i.e., when “the risks of harm anticipated in the proposed research are not greater considering probability and magnitude, than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests”). 
  • The project does not involve sensitive topics or confidential information that could place a participant at risk if disclosed. 
  • The project does not involve persons from vulnerable populations as participants. 
  • The project involves the voluntary participation of individuals without any coercion or pressure being placed upon them. The instructor/students have considered whether a consent document should be provided to participants. 

Red Flags 

  • The project’s activities expose participants to more than “minimal risk” (minimal risk means no more risk than everyday life). 
  • The project involves sensitive/private information such as sexual attitudes or behaviors, illegal behaviors, and/or the use of alcohol or drugs. 
  • The project uses vulnerable populations (e.g., children under the age of 18, institutionalized persons, prisoners, persons who are “decisionally” impaired, etc.) 
  • Results of the project activities or data collected are recorded in such a way that the subjects are identifiable (images in videotapes or photographs and voices on audiotape are identifiable). 
  • There is no informed consent process in place. 
  • Subjects are under the direction or supervision of students collecting data (e.g. TAs collecting data from their own students or supervisors collecting data from employees). 
  • Students do not plan to maintain confidentiality of the data (e.g. using subjects’ real names, inability to store consent forms in locked office/cabinet, etc.). 
  • Subjects are forced to participate or are ostracized if they do not participate. 

Adapted from the University of Texas at Austin on Student/Classroom Research Projects (IRB Guidance Document)    

End of Semester Report Procedures 

Instructors are required to file a Kuali closure report (accessible in your dashboard) by the end of the semester providing the following information. Please include the below information:

a) a listing of all course instructor approved projects, indicating the appropriate exempt review category, along with information on the students [ name, title etc.] responsible for data collection associated with such projects. An abstract of each project must accompany this report. 

b) that details be provided about any problems occurring in connection with the administration of any of the exempt projects. 

c) an assurance is given that any and all signed consent forms collected as a part of these student projects are to be kept on file, in a secure location, until the end of the following semester, after which time, they are to be destroyed. 

Submission of this report is due to the ORPC within two (2) weeks of the end of the semester. 

Compliance with the Procedure 

A failure to comply with any aspect of this procedure could result in the Instructor losing the privilege of serving as an ex-officio member of the IRB the next time he or she teaches any relevant research or methodology courses. If such occurs, projects from students will need to be submitted in the traditional manner. 

return to IRB procedures