IRB Frequently Asked Questions
- What exactly qualifies as “research”?
- Research is a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.
- “A "systematic investigation" is an activity that involves a prospective plan that incorporates data collection, either quantitative or qualitative, and data analysis to answer a question.”*
- See the next question for the definition of generalizability.
- What is "generalizability?" What level of generalizability must be present in my work for it to qualify as IRB-submission-worthy?
- The idea with generalizability is that you’re attempting to say that the results you found may apply to other people and situations, particularly to “real life” situations (rather than just in a lab).
- See this definition shared by UC-Irvine’s IRB: “Investigations designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge are those designed to draw general conclusions, inform policy, or generalize findings beyond a single individual or an internal program (e.g., publications or presentations). However, research results do not have to be published or presented to qualify the experiment or data gathering as research.”*
- If I intend to display my work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, must I submit to IRB?
- You do not necessarily have to submit to IRB for approval in order to present at the U.R.S. However, consult your faculty advisor, because you need to submit an application to the IRB if you plan to present any data collected from participants (human subjects).
- If your work is a class project and you don’t involve people in any type of research, then you don’t need to submit an application. (See the definition of “research” above)
- If I don't intend to make my work accessible to the public in any way, does that mean (regardless of risk), that I don't have to submit to IRB?
- Regardless of whether you’ll share the results, if the project involves humans, then it’s possible there’s some level of risk. If you’re in doubt about your project being research or involving any risk, please consult your faculty advisor and the IRB chair.
- If you will only present the results of your project within the class the information was gathered from, and the material isn’t sensitive, you do not need to submit an IRB application.
- If I have designed a project, and my only use of humans is to ask their impression of the project (ex., "What are your impressions of the film I've directed?"), do I need to submit to IRB? (Does the answer change when I carry out the same project, with intentions to display the work publicly?)
- If the only participation people give for your project is providing their response or opinion to something, you may not need to submit an IRB application. You will, however, need to submit an application if: 1) the material is sensitive or disturbing in any way, or 2) the participants will be identified in your results/product.
- See this definition of “human subjects research” from the National Institute of Health: “Research is considered to involve human subjects when an investigator conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with a living individual, or (2) identifiable private information about a living individual.”*
- When I've asked a human to give me feedback for my project, and the exercise takes longer than 30 minutes, should I submit to IRB?
- There is no specific cut-off with time required to participate in an exercise making it “research.” However, if it takes up more than a few minutes of someone’s time, it may be considered research. (See the definition of “research” above.)
- Could you clarify about documentary films and journalistic projects? In those, I'm interviewing people, and it's clear to them that they may choose to participate or bow out. If the questions are controversial or tough, does that mean I should submit to IRB?
The IRB honors students' rights of free expression in the production of journalistic and documentary film projects that attempt to inform or entertain audiences or -- in some cases -- advocate certain positions. The questions asked in such projects need not undergo IRB review. Journalists and film-makers are reminded the ethics of informing subjects of publicity about the possible risks of expressing their opinions publicly. The use of signed waivers is encouraged.
There are rare times, though, when journalists and film-makers should consider submission to IRB:
-- When at any point the project directly or indirectly attempts to generalize findings to a larger population.
-- When the questions posed to human subjects go beyond seeking their opinion and into areas where the subjects' self-disclosure could put them at risk.
*Information taken from: