Redefining what's possible.
As a student in a research class, you have limited time to complete your class project because of the quarter system. In deciding upon what to do for your research project, you may want to create a project that will not require human subjects review. Projects that require a human subjects review necessarily begin late as you will need to wait for the review to be complete, leaving less time for actually engaging in research. This will affect your ability to successfully complete your project. Below are guidelines to help you determine whether a project requires a human subjects review. You should consult with your research instructor at the very beginning of the quarter if you believe that your project may require review (e.g., you are writing a Master's thesis, plan to present the findings at a conference, or hope to publish the paper).
The intent of your project is critical to determining whether human subjects approval is needed. Your project meets the definition of classroom activity research and human subjects clearance is not necessary if the intent of your project is:
Additionally, projects designed as program evaluation studies do not require human subjects review. Examples of program evaluation questions include projects that examine the effectiveness of a particular staff training or client service. Program evaluation furthermore implies that the findings are not intended to add to generalizable knowledge. Findings instead are intended to remain within the agency that sponsored the program.
It is important to develop projects where study participants will not be harmed or burdened by the classroom activity research. The following are guidelines to help you design your project.
If you are testing a hypothesis or asking a research question that you have developed and will likely publish or present these findings outside of the class, human subjects approval is required. Consult the exemption, minimal risk and full review pages, plus other relevant links, on the School of Social Work Human Subjects Clearance website and then contact your instructor if more information is needed about completing a human subjects application.
Scenario 1: A student will interview her practicum agency's clients about their satisfaction with agency services. Study results will be reported only in a paper to the practicum agency and will be discussed only in the student's capstone presentation at the SSW. This study does not require human subjects review. The instructor and the practicum agency supervisor will provide guidance on consent and confidentiality issues. The student must obtain a letter of cooperation from the agency and pass that along to the instructor.
Scenario 2: Two students will spend a week in Mexico harvesting a crop. They will interview farmers about the influence of crop distribution policies on their families. When they return, they will present findings to their class and in the capstone presentation and will use the data to make presentations to community groups, including the one that funded their trip. This study requires human subjects review.
Scenario 3: A student wants to learn how to construct an interview guide and analyze qualitative data. The student plans to ask classmates about their most memorable high school experiences. The questions are intentionally written to minimize the potential for risk (e.g., feelings of discomfort regarding disclosing sensitive or embarrassing stories). The interviews will be audio-taped with the study participants' permission. The student will transcribe the interview data and destroy the tapes. This study does not require human subjects review. The instructor will provide guidance around consent and confidentiality issues.