Students Conducting Class Projects

Class Projects

For the purpose of this guidance, classroom projects are course assignments/activities conducted by a single or group of Marquette students to satisfy the curriculum requirements of a course. If the purpose of the project is meant to complete an assignment for class and does not result in research data that will be disseminated beyond Marquette University and its immediate university community, such class projects would not meet the IRB definition of “research” involving human subjects and MU IRB is typically not needed.

Is there a difference between student-based “research” and a student-based class project that involves human subjects?

Yes. A good example of student-based “research” where MU IRB review is needed are for graduate-level thesis, dissertation, capstone and independent studies where the goal is to demonstrate a level of critical and analytical thinking by creating new or original knowledge, or contributing to existing knowledge by employing a systematic investigation.

An example where IRB review is not needed are for projects carried out by students as part of a research methods class. Whether undergraduate or graduate level, such research is typically characterized by little or no risk to human subjects and employs common educational techniques.

Please use the Determination of MU IRB Submission for additional guidance, or if there is any doubt about whether a project requires IRB review and approval, please contact the Office of Research Compliance at (414) 288-7570 or Please note that there are no provisions for retrospective approval under the federal research regulations.

What are the responsibilities of the instructor?

Regardless of a project meeting the criteria for MU IRB review, instructors and faculty who assign projects involving individuals as research subjects should keep in mind the following:

  • Review projects for and suggest ways to maximize privacy and confidentiality and maintaining data security. This would include collecting data anonymously, how and where data is stored, and the destruction of data as well.
  • Discuss vulnerable participants (e.g., children, prisoners, cognitively impaired, etc.) and ways to manage/minimize the use of sensitive topics (e.g., sexual activity, illegal behavior, victimization, etc.).
  • Whenever participants are being asked to provide data (e.g., interview, survey), we can show them respect by explaining who is conducting the project, what it is about, what it is for, and any other relevant information. In cases of sensitive topics, it should state that you are asking for “their experiences” in the cover letter or email message and state that if they become upset by any of the questions, they can stop, skip and/or contact resources for support. Especially with child abuse, asking such questions may become extremely upsetting and should be handled delicately and thoughtfully with the participant in mind. Further, Marquette policy requires employees and in some incidences, students, to report cases of child abuse.
  • Suggest students take CITI Human Subjects Training. For example completing the module, Group 3: Other research personnel not serving as principal investigators or instructors assigning CITI training as a class assignment..
  • Consult with Marquette's IRB office with any questions.
  • Use the below sample permission and information sheets for participants.

What are the responsibilities of the students?

In addition to the responsibilities of the instructor, students should think about the intended future use of data from the class project. Specifically, if it will be used for “research” purposes beyond the classroom assignment, then IRB review and approval should be obtained prior to subject recruitment and data collection.

Place yourself in your subjects’ shoes and think about how you plan to contact them and what you are asking them to do. For instance, do you already have a relationship with the potential subjects? Are you clear in explaining who you are, why you chose them, and what you are asking them to do?

Helpful resources:

A sample template that can be used for class projects wanting to obtain permission from research subjects, along with a completed sample, is listed below for your reference. The template is a suggestion only and is not a required document. DO NOT use the IRB Consent Forms, as those are intended for studies requiring IRB review/approval and contain IRB- specific information not relevant to class projects.