IRB Rules

Procedures to Ensure the Ethical Treatment of Human Participants*

Review Categories

  • Exempt – no risk, non-sensitive material collected through questionnaires or observational methods, oral history, non-special populations, anonymous data or information obtained is innocuous
  • Expedited – minimal risks, confidential data that may be sensitive, non-stressful research on individual or group behavior, recording of data using noninvasive procedures, non-special populations.
  • Full – criteria for exempt or expedited review are not met, physical or psychological risk, deception, special populations (e.g. minors, prisoners, non-competent individuals)

Tiered Review Process

  • Class-related research activities involving human participants that are designed by a faculty member and connected to the requirements of a course are to be approved by the faculty member. Students will be instructed on research ethics prior to beginning of the project.
  • Proposals for student-designed research involving human participants that is to be conducted under the supervision of a faculty mentor and that requires exempt or expedited review will be approved by that faculty member. Proposals will be kept on file in the department office for 3 years.
  • Proposals for student-designed research involving human participants that is to be conducted under the supervision of a faculty member and that requires full review will be sent to the college IRB.
  • Proposals for faculty research involving human participants will be submitted to the college IRB by the faculty member, whether needing exempt, expedited, or full review.

Types of Research-Related Activities in Sociology

Class Activities: Class activities developed by a course instructor in the form of research conducted solely for the purpose of training in a course and not to be publicly shared. These activities might include short surveys, brief participant observation, or limited in-depth interviews on non-sensitive topics. These activities require approval of the instructor and will not require formal review, but students must be instructed regarding confidentiality issues:

  1. Do not refer to people by name or other identifying characteristics in written assignments.
  2. Do not refer to people by name or other identifying characteristics when sharing experiences with others, including classmates and instructor.

Student-Designed Research: Honors research projects and/or independent empirical research involving human participants conducted by students under the supervision of a faculty member. These projects could be part of a course but not limited to that. These students will submit an IRB application to the faculty mentor to review. The college IRB will review proposals when they require full review. Both review paths (faculty and college IRB) will provide a basis for public dissemination of student research. CITI training is required for all students conducting student-designed research.

Faculty Research: A program of research designed by a faculty member involving human participants. An IRB application outlining methodology and ethics will be submitted to the college IRB for review. As the research program progresses, this proposal may be “continued” or “revised” as needed using the appropriate forms.

Review Process

Students conducting independent student-designed research should determine the category of their research review (exempt, expedited or full) by reviewing the above categories. CITI training is required of all students conducting student-designed research, as well as faculty conducting their own research.

Students: Expedited/Exempt Review (Departmental IRB)

In all other cases of student-designed research, the student researcher, in consultation with their faculty mentor, should submit an initial application to the sociology department Administrative Assistant.

For Review

  • The proposal will be assigned a number using the following convention: XX-SOC-XX. The first two digits identify the year the proposal was submitted, and the last two digits indicate the number of applications received in that year.
  • The proposal will be forwarded on to the faculty mentor(s).
  • The faculty mentor will review the application and return it to Administrative Assistant.

Upon Approval

  • Student investigators will receive an electronic copy of the top page with the approval signature from the administrative assistant.
  • A copy of expedited proposals will be forwarded to the College IRB if requested.

Students: Full Review (College IRB)

Any student-designed research involving special populations, deception, or more than minimal risk to participants; or the faculty member requests or requires a college-wide IRB review, is sent directly to the College IRB ( The review process will occur at that level. Please use the IRB application form.

Faculty Research (College IRB)

All faculty research involving human participants is sent directly to the college IRB ( for review. Please use the IRB application form.


Proposals and/or consent forms may be revised, as needed, using the college IRB Revision Form. Revisions will be reviewed at the same level as the original proposal. Research may also be “continued” using the IRB Continuation form.

Procedure for IRB Training

All investigators must complete the CITI educational modules and obtain the certificate for those successfully completed (These certificates expire after three years and the modules have to be completed again). College IRB instructions for the training modules are available here.

Information Available on Sociology Department Website

IRB Application Form
IRB Revision Form
IRB Continuation Form

*This document is modeled after the internal IRB protocol developed by the Psychology Department, Gettysburg College.