Survey or Questionnaire-Based Studies

The Human Subjects Institutional Review Board (IRB) recognizes that many student projects conducted to fulfill course requirements involve research with human subjects. Such research occasionally entails certain risks to the subjects involved. The examples outlined below are based on federal regulations that define research as "a systematic investigation (i.e. the gathering and analysis of information) designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge ."

All student research projects involving the use of human subjects must be reviewed by the IRB. Special attention should be given to research that puts the subject at risk (i.e. carries some probability of harm to the subject). Examples of harm include, but are not limited to, embarrassment, emotional distress, loss of respect or reputation, loss of employment, ridicule, or in general, any circumstance where the subjects' interests may be adversely affected, whether or not the subject is aware of potential harm.

Non-exempt Research

Examples of non-exempt research are projects that:

  1. Include experiments in which participants experience a manipulation of their behavior.
  2. Include surveys, questionnaires or interviews that enable the researcher to link the identity of subjects to their responses AND these responses, if known outside the research, could reasonably place the subject at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subject's financial standing or employability.
  3. Target a particularly vulnerable subject population such as children, prisoners, mentally or physically disabled persons, juvenile delinquents, the homeless, undocumented migrants and refugees, homosexuals, substance abusers, etc.
  4. Target sensitive topics such as sexual orientation, sexually transmitted diseases, incest, rape or date-rape, sexual harassment, molestation, race relations, use of licit or illicit drugs, eating disorders, abortion, contraception or pregnancy, the subjects' own mental health (suicide, depression, compulsive behaviors), religion, illegal conduct, stressful experiences.

Exempt Research

Some projects may qualify for "Exempt from Further Review" status:
Anonymous opinion research such as interviews, surveys or questionnaires on innocuous topics that do not link the subjects to the research and do not ask the subjects to reveal anything about their own personal experiences, behavior or identity may qualify as exempt from further review. Examples might include, but are not limited to, opinions of political candidates or issues, opinions of products, environmental issues or policies, or preferences.

(Approved 4-19-95) Rev.10/29/1998

Questions?

Contact IRB Chair or Vice Chair:
Professor Meghan Griffith at (704-894-2403 ) or Ms. Sharon Byrd at (704-894-2158).