IRB Guidelines - Information for Students and Their Advisors

Research involving human subjects conducted by students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) is subject to the same policies and procedures as those for faculty members. If you will be carrying out systematic research leading to a thesis, field study reports, or a dissertation, and plan to interact with human subjects, or you will be utilizing private information about individuals, you will likely require IRB approval BEFORE the research begins.  For more information on whether your project needs IRB approval please see our Determination Form.

Generally speaking, review by a review board should take place if you answer yes to both the questions below:

1. Is your study a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to the body of generalizable knowledge? If yes, then your study is defined as research.

2. Will you obtain data through investigation or interaction with one or more living individuals, or will you obtain any identifiable private information about a living individual? If yes, then you are using human subjects.

If you answered yes to these questions, IRB review must be initiated before any research or recruitment of subjects is initiated. Submissions to the IRB are processed through an electronic submission system (e-protocol).  To gain access to e-protocol you and your advisor will be required to complete an on-line training program (CITI).

Once you have received access to e-protocol, you can begin to prepare your submission. When your protocol is ready, you can submit it to our office through e-protocol.  Upon submission you will receive an email indicating that the IRB review process has been initiated. IRB review consists of an administrative review by IRB staff members and a systematic review by some or all Board members as appropriate to the nature of the research. You will be notified regarding the status of your protocol via email and upon approval you will be able to access an official letter of approval by the IRB Chair attached to your protocol during the approval process.  Once approval has been granted you may begin your study. IRB review can take 4-6 weeks. Please plan accordingly.

For assistance with navigating the IRB submission process, please visit the HRPO Consultation page to set up an appointment to come in and talk with an IRB Analyst.

Please Note: Classroom assignments are not intended to contribute to generalizable knowledge and do not meet the federal definition of "research" and therefore are not under the purview of the IRB. It is very important to note, however, all classroom assignments must be conducted in accordance with the UMass honor code and all applicable UMass guidance, policies, and procedures. Classroom instructors are ultimately responsible for ensuring the ethical treatment of classroom participants, such as ensuring participant privacy, voluntary consent, and that all participants are treated with respect and dignity. Instructors who have questions about whether classroom projects might violate ethical guidelines should contact the HRPO for advice.

See Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for more information or call the Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) at 545-3428.