Classroom Projects

Certain activities have the characteristics of research but do not meet the regulatory definition of research needing IRB review.

  • Data collection for internal departmental, school, or other college administrative purposes (e.g. teaching evaluations, course evaluations)
  • Reviews and searches of existing literature and research involving a living individual, such as a biography, that is not generalizable beyond that individual.
  • If your research is a class project or term paper and will not be published in any form at any time. NOTE: Consistent with federal regulations, the Georgetown IRB interprets publishing or publication broadly. In brief, if the information is publicly available, in any form, it is published. This is true even if researchers do not expect a wide actual audience or if they will not be advertising or otherwise promoting the availability of their research.
    • A more precise definition of publication: information becomes “published” or considered as “ordinarily published” when it is generally accessible to the interested public through a variety of ways, including through publication in periodicals, books, print, electronic or any other media available for general distribution to any member of the public or to those that would be interested in the material in a scientific or engineering discipline. Published or ordinarily published material also includes the following: readily available at libraries open to the public; issued patents; and releases at an open conference, meeting, seminar, trade show, or other open gathering. A conference is considered “open” if all technically qualified members of the public are eligible to attend and attendees are permitted to take notes or otherwise make a personal record (but not necessarily a recording) of the proceedings and presentations. In all cases, access to the information must be free or for a fee that does not exceed the cost to produce and distribute the material or hold the conference (including a reasonable profit).

These are examples to be used as rules of thumb. See above for the definition of publication, which is more expansive than many students or those teaching students may realize.

  • Journalism – the periodical collection and publication of current news
  • Exercises Performed Solely Within a Classroom without intent to publish
  • Educational Assessments without intent to publish

IRB review is NOT required if all of the following are true:

  1. The project is limited to surveys/questionnaires/interviews/observations of public behavior directly related to topics being studied in an official college course. Public behavior is conduct people would be engaged in even if no research were being conducted regarding it.
  2. The above surveys/questionnaires/activities, etc. contain no sensitive personal questions (e.g., no questions about drug use, sexual behavior or attitudes, criminal activity, grades, medical history) or other personal information that could stigmatize or embarrass an individual.
  3. No identifying information is recorded to link a person with the data such that it could reasonably harm the individual’s reputation, employability, financial standing, or place them at risk for criminal or civil liability.
  4. The participants in the project are not from a vulnerable or special population (e.g., pregnant women, prisoners, minors, cognitively impaired individuals).
  5. The collected data does not leave the classroom setting, or if the project involves collecting data on an organization, agency or company, the data are shared only with that entity.
  6. No Georgetown University employee or student is receiving financial compensation for collecting, organizing, analyzing, or reporting the data.

If not all of these conditions are met, or if your project does not fall into any of these categories, your project will require IRB notification and formal IRB approval before you can start with your project.

The following are examples of projects that do require IRB notification but are exempt from ongoing IRB review. To be accorded exempt status you must submit a research protocol to IRB, via Georgetown-MedStar IRB system, prior to the start of such project since the decision on the exempt status is the sole responsibility of the IRB committee.

  • The study of or comparison among instructional techniques, curricula, or classroom management methods.
  • The use of educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement), survey procedures, interview procedures or observation of public behavior, unless this involves anyone under the age of 18.
  • The collection or study of existing data, documents, records, pathological specimens, or diagnostic specimens, if these sources are publicly available or the information is collected in a way that cannot be linked either directly or through identifiers to an individual.