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Student-Initiated Research

  1. General Information
    Student-initiated research follows the same Institutional and Federal guidelines as research conducted by RIT faculty and staff. Please review the other sections of this website for general information regarding the Human Subjects in Research review process at RIT as well as helpful tips and resources.

    It is important to differentiate between an activity with humans that falls under the purview of the Human Subjects Research Office (HSRO) and the IRB, and an activity that is developed as a class assignment with the intent to instruct students in the methods and procedures of research.

    Course-related research or evaluation projects designed to provide students the opportunity to practice various research methods such as interview, observation and survey techniques, measurement of behavior (e.g reaction time, speech, problem solving), as well as data analysis typically do not require IRB review because they do not intend to contribute to generalizable knowledge. Their purpose is to provide a platform for learning, not to add information to a field of study.

    Often student research activities fall within one of the Exempt research categories. These categories are federally defined and the determination of whether an activity will receive Exempt status is made within the HSRO.
  2. Faculty Mentors
    RIT faculty supervising students who are conducting research with human subjects are responsible for informing students of elements of the RIT policy that are relevant to the students’ research.

    Faculty supervisors are given the authority to determine when an activity is non-research, also referred to as an Excluded activity Excluded activities do not meet the Federal definition of research with human subjects and are not required to be submitted to the HSRO.  Contact the HSRO if guidance is required to determine if an activity would be considered Excluded.

    Faculty supervisors cannot approve research activities that fall into Exempt or Expedited categories. These activities should be submitted to the HSRO.

    While faculty will provide guidance through the review process and are responsible for facilitating student applications to the HSRO, it is not expected that they will develop or submit the submission materials for students. The HSRO interacts directly with student investigators and will communicate to the student and their advisor if any modifications need to be made to the submission.
  3. Determining if an activity needs to be submitted to the Human Subjects Research Office.


    Question 1 Diagram

    Queston 1 Note

    Research is a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.  Publication is not a definition of research.  Research activities intend to generate new knowledge that can be applied in other settings and the benefits always extend beyond the participants.

    Practice is an intervention which enhances the well-being of a patient or client.  Practice may use scientific methods to identify and control a specific problem and primarily benefits the participants.  Data are used to assess and/or improve an already existing program or service.  In the case of our students, practice might be conducting a project to understand the tenets of research or replicating aspects of any already-published study.  That is not research as the intent is not to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

    If you have any doubt, you should have your student submit the project to the HSRO for determination.  The HSRO will look to see what your intent in the assignment is – is it to create new knowledge or is it to have students practice something that is well understood by experts in your field?  If an element of risk exists, faculty should oversee and utilize standards of ethics in their field.


    If you have any doubt, you should have your student submit the project to the HSRO for determination.  The HSRO will look to see what your intent in the assignment is – is it to create new knowledge or is it to have students practice something that is well understood by experts in your field?  If an element of risk exists, faculty should oversee and utilize standards of ethics in their field.

    If you have determined the project is a research activity, you and your students need to ask:  Does this project involve human subjects? 

    Question 2 Diagram and Note

    Human subjects are living individuals, (this includes human embryos, fetuses, and any human tissue or fluids)about whom an investigator obtains data.  The data can be obtained through interaction with the person OR come from a data set of identifiable private information.

    The term, human subject, is interpreted broadly.  At RIT, there are many projects where students interview people or conduct surveys.  In those instances, students are involving human subjects.  In addition, if a student is examining a database of educational scores that are identified by individual names, this would be considered a project with human subjects.


    Faculty should require their students to apply the same rigor that they would apply to their own research with human subjects. Teaching students about human subjects in research, the protocol review and approval process, and principles integral to ethical research will add to students’ education. At RIT, implementing the principles of respect for persons, justice, and beneficence involves everyone.