The English, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology departments each have specific policies about research involving human subjects. The departments all follow Davison College's Institutional Review Board (IRB) and federal regulations.
The English Department at Davidson College adopts the following policy for use in courses in which students conduct interviews as part of their research.
The college's Institutional Review Board (IRB; also known as the Human Subject Review Committee) must approve interviews by students that deal with vulnerable populations (e.g., children, the mentally impaired or very elderly, prison inmates, etc.), sensitive topics of behavior (sex, drugs, alcohol), and topics that pose legal or financial risk if subjects' identities were to be revealed. The procedure below should identify the possibility of any such interview occurring.
Download the Students Conducting Interviews as Research for English Courses form (Word) (to be used in conjunction with published departmental guidelines)
In recognition of regulations published by federal agencies and the college's Institutional Review Board (IRB) [also known as Human Subjects Review Committee], as well as of policies recommended by professional organizations of historians in the United States, the History Department at Davidson College adopts the following policy for use in courses in which students conduct interviews as part of their research.
It is understood that virtually all interviews conducted by students in history courses at the college seek to discover memories about and responses to general living conditions, cultural expressions, social relationships, and major events in the past for the purpose of helping the interviewer gain a clearer understanding of life in another time. In some instances, the interviewer will ask an interviewee about his or her participation in political or social causes. In either case, each interviewee is a source for, not a subject of, research; each set of responses will be unique.
Download Students Conducting Interviews as Research for History Courses form (Word) (to be used in conjunction with published departmental guidelines)
Protocol for Human Subjects Research in Political Science:
I. Federal guidelines for human subjects research allow certain types of research to be exempted from Institutional Review Board approval (IRB Policy Statement [link to 47.5.1.a Human Subjects IRB Policies]; paragraph 2.5). Students in various political science classes (e.g. POL I 10; POL 3 19; POL 498; POL 499) often develop, distribute, and analyze surveys as part of their course work. It is our understanding that these surveys would typically qualify for an exemption from IRB approval since:
a) All research done by students in political science classes is conducted in accordance with the "Statement of Principles" contained in the policy statement of the IRB. Subjects are fully informed of the nature of research and have the right to decline to participate or to withdraw from participation at any point in the research process (para. 1. 1; 1.2). All research involving human subjects is formally sponsored by members of the political science department (para. 1.2.3). Research subjects are not compensated with grades, nor do "faculty investigators award academic credit to students for participating as subjects in their own research projects" (para. 1.2.4).
b) Surveys in political science classes at Davidson are "conducted in established or commonly accepted educational settings involving normal educational practices" (para. 2.5. 1). Surveys are distributed in class, through the campus or U.S. mail, or by delivery to dorms or campus houses. Data entry is coordinated and supervised by professors in the department.
c) All surveys or interviews conducted by students in political science classes ensure the anonymity of respondents (para. 2.5.3. a). No permanent record is kept of who participates in surveys, and the surveys are destroyed after data have been recorded. Moreover, the data are recorded in a manner that does not permit identification of subjects.
d) The surveys do not contain information that "could reasonably place the subject at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subject's financial standing or employability" (para. 2.5.3.b), nor do the surveys deal "with sensitive aspects of the subject's behavior such as illegal conduct, drug or alcohol use, sexual behavior, etc." (para. 2.5.3.c). If surveys do contain questions of this nature (e.g. the class project survey done by students in POL 319), it will be submitted to the IRB for review (see II below).
e) The subjects of the surveys do not deal with "vulnerable subject population(s)" (para. 2.5.3.d).
II. The faculty of the Political Science Department has been informed of the "Statement of Principles" promulgated by the IRB and of the guidelines for exempted and non-exempted research. Professors will review all student research proposals requiring the use of human subjects. Students submitting proposals that do not qualify for exemption from IRB approval will be required to submit an application for "Approval of Research Involving Human Subjects" to the IRB.
Every semester studies on human behavior are conducted by psychology majors and Psychology Department faculty for the purposes of research and education. These studies often solicit student participation. Students who participate in psychological research benefit by learning firsthand about how advances in the field of psychology are made. All research projects are conducted according to the Ethical Principles of the American Psychological Association and Davidson College policy on the Use of Human Subjects in Research.
In order to fulfill its teaching and research goals, the Psychology Department has instituted a policy on research participation: All students enrolled in Psychology 101 (General Psychology) may anticipate being asked to participate in research projects. Participants earn partial class credit as announced by their instructors.
Students can participate in studies for credit as announced in their classes. Most studies take about one hour to complete. Instructors will specify how research credit will be assigned in their class.
Students who may have objections to participating in studies are offered the option of alternative assignments, equivalent in effort, such as library research assignments, that also teach students about psychological research. Students will complete assignments described by their instructors. For example, this might be reading an article from a scientific magazine like Scientific American and reporting on it. Instructors will provide the due date and specific instructions in class. Each acceptably completed assignment will substitute for one research project.
If a student believes that he or she has been treated unfairly or harmed in a study, the student should contact either (1) the Psychology 101 instructor, (2) the faculty supervising the study; (3) the chair of the Psychology Department; (4) or the chair of the Human Subjects IRB committee.
Volunteers must arrive at the location of the study on time. When students finish a study, the researcher will request their signature on a list signifying that they have participated in the study. The list will be given to their instructors so that students will get credit for their participation. If students cannot participate after signing up, they must cancel the appointment at least three hours in advance by either emailing or calling the experimenter. Canceling an appointment in a timely way prevents needless waiting by the researcher and allows the time to be used by another participant. Instructors may impose penalties for failing to keep appointments or to give timely notice of cancellation.
More details on using the introductory psychology subject pool.
Human Subjects IRB/Sociology Department Policies:
Federal guidelines for research on or with human subjects require that research proposals be examined by the Institutional Review Board (IRB, also known as the Human Subjects Review Committee) before the collection or analysis of data.
A professor teaching a course that requires some form of research activity involving human subjects in her/his course is expected to get approval from the IRB. But if the project is to be repeated for a particular course whenever it is taught, the IRB could grant approval for such a project and not require that it be submitted each and every semester that the course is taught, provided the project meets the requirements of the IRB for exemptions.
In this department, course work allowing such exemption usually entails the construction and distribution of surveys to a sampled population. The courses in the department that frequently contain such assignments are Introductory Sociology (Soc 101), and Research Design (Soc 399).
The comments below set out the reasoning as to why these courses may be exempted according to the statement of principles by the IRB.
Many other courses in the department require an individualized research study using fieldwork, formal interviews, or questionnaire distribution. The term "individualized" means that the project is created and carried out by an individual student who would be supervised by a teacher. Obviously, these projects, unlike the ones where an entire class or sub-groups in the class might participate in a study, have to be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Institutional Review Board.