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Classroom-Based Research Projects

All activities meeting any one of the definitions of human subjects research and carried out at Tennessee State University (TSU) or under its auspices must be reviewed and approved by a TSU IRB prior to the start of the activity. That said, the University also recognizes that some student projects conducted to fulfill course requirements involve activities that, in a different context, might meet the definition of human subjects research. It is the policy of the University to not require individual IRB review of classroom research projects, for these projects we recommend that that the professors submit an IRB application that covers all the class projects. This policy covers all projects that are designed to teach students research methods except for the following: Doctoral dissertations; funded research; research conducted through collaborations external to TSU, Master‘s theses, and honors theses. All of these must undergo individual reviews and approved by the IRB before students may begin their research. 


Guidelines For A Classroom-Based Research Project

In order for the research of your students to be considered a classroom-based research project, it must fit the following guidelines:

  1. The risk level of the project is minimal (no more than would be encountered in routine daily activities).
  2. Unless a student is qualified to do so, there may be no studies that involve interaction with vulnerable subjects (e.g., pregnant women, children, prisoners, or cognitively impaired persons). Observational study of protected vulnerable populations can be done with the appropriate protections in place.
  3. No identifiers are collected.
  4. The project is limited to surveys/questionnaires/interview procedures, observation of public behavior, or standard educational exercises directly related to the topic(s) being studied. 
  5. Surveys/questionnaires/interviews, if used, may contain sensitive personal questions (e.g., questions about alcohol/drug use, sexual behavior/attitudes, criminal activity, medical history, grades/test scores) or other personal information only if surveys are completely anonymous.
  6. No Tennessee State University faculty, staff or student is receiving monetary compensation or any type of support from an external company/organization/agency for collecting, analyzing or reporting the results of this project.
  7. The project is not conducted on Veterans Affairs (VA) premises and does not use VA resources, and is not otherwise subject to oversight by a federal regulatory body. 
  8. Subjects are recruited in a voluntary manner.
  9. The data are not archived or saved in any way to be used in the future.


It is also understood that the end result of the research may be presented in the classroom to peers but may not be used for any publication or public presentation outside of the immediate classroom.


Faculty Responsibilities

Faculty who require students to do classroom based research projects assume responsibility for the conduct of those projects and assure that the guidelines outlined here are met and that research that falls outside of these criteria is submitted to the IRB for a regular review.


It is the responsibility of faculty to determine whether an assigned project involving humans can be classified as a course-related student project under the criteria above. Faculty should contact the IRB office for assistance if needed in making this determination. It is the responsibility of the TSU faculty to discuss general principles of ethical conduct in research with the students prior to the initiation of the project.  In addition, the faculty member must ensure that all surveys/questionnaires/interviews are preceded by a disclosure of the following points to the respondent. If an information sheet or any recruitment materials are used, these points must be in that document.


If the projects follow the guidelines of a classroom-based research project, the IRB ask that the professors of the class submit an IRB that cover all the class research and list the students as “Other Researchers”.  Also, make sure that you indicate that the proposal is for Classroom-Based Research Projects on the first page of the application.  When you submit your application make sure you submit the following materials with it:

  1. Permission letters for each project (if applicable)
  2. CITI Training Certificates from you and all the students/“Other Researchers"
  3. Survey instruments for each project (if applicable)
  4. Letters of consent for each project (if applicable)


If there is any research in the class that falls outside these guidelines the students will have to submit individual IRB’s for those projects.