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Human Subjects Division (HSD)

Quick Tips from HSD

Classroom Research Project?

Feb 21, 2012 at 12:00am

Dear HSD Quick Tips,

I recently took a research methods class in which we were broken up into groups, asked to choose a population, then design and conduct interviews with these people.  We than had a big presentation at the end of the quarter.

Why didn't our instructor have us submit anything to the HSD office?  I thought you were supposed to look at all human subjects research?


Student Researcher


Dear Student Researcher,

Your instructor was right.  Your project didn't need to come to our office.  The key is the term "human subjects research."

HSD (and the Institutional Review Boards it supports) is responsible for reviewing research with human subjects as defined by federal regulations.  These regulations (45 CFR 46.102) define research as a "systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge."  "Designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge" means that the project is designed to produce results that can be validly applied more broadly beyond the individuals studies or beyond a specific time and/or locations, such as to other settings, circumstances, or categories.

As you can see, this says nothing about publishing or presenting.  A project can be designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge, and thus constitute research, even if the results are never published.  At the same time, many things are published (biographies, for example) that aren't designed to be generalizable.

The purpose of your class project (and other projects such as practica and internships) was not so much to add to the larger body of general knowledge, but to teach you about research methods, and give you the opportunity to practice these skills.  In other words, your class projects did not meet the federal definition of the kind of research that requires review. That's hwy they did not need to come to our office.

Your instructor should still work with you to ensure that your projects adhere to the ethical standards of your field, and to relevant laws and regulations.

Next time, we'll visit when student research DOES need to come to HSD.