Student Research

Federal regulations and university policies require Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for research with human subjects. This applies whether the research is conducted by faculty or students. At Emory & Henry, students may only conduct research under the supervision of a faculty adviser and that faculty adviser must serve, for the purposes of the IRB application, and regulatory oversight of the project, as the PI.  

Student research activities can include, but are not limited to, projects that result in undergraduate honors theses, masters theses, or doctoral dissertations, and graduate student research. However, students may also be involved in activities only for educational purposes and not research, referred to as “classroom projects”.

IRB approval is required if human subjects are involved, either directly or through use of identifiable data about them, and the project involves a systematic investigation individuals with an intent to develop generalizable new or expanded knowledge about living individuals. A systematic investigation is one that involves a predetermined method for studying a specific topic, answering a specific question(s), testing a specific hypothesis(es), or developing a theory. Generally, if there is an intention to publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal or to present results at a conference, then IRB review is required. (There are some exceptions in that research with publicly available data, oral histories, etc.)   The E&H IRB generally considers honors thesis, independent undergraduate research projects, graduate research, and masters and doctoral theses work involving what is federally defined as human subjects as generalizable and subject to IRB review.

At the same time, many class projects are conducted for educational purposes and not as research, and will not require IRB approval, as it does not meet the federal definition of research.   Please note that IRBs do not have the option of granting “retroactive” approval after research is done; you should err on the side of submitting or consulting with the IRB if there is any doubt.

For further information and guidance on these issues, there is a student research guidance document and published IRB policies (see specifically “Student Research,” Policy 6.0).  These documents can be found in Self Service under the Academics Tab (sub-folder - Human Research, IRB Policies and Guidance)