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IRB Review

Does my Project Need IRB Review?

Federal, state and university regulations require Institutional Review Board (IRB) review prior to conducting research involving human subjects. These regulations pertain to any research conducted by anyone affiliated with this university regardless of where the activity occurs.

What is research?

"Research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalized knowledge. Activities which meet this definition constitute research for purposes of this policy, whether or not they are conducted or supported under a program which is considered research for other purposes. For Example, some demonstration and service programs may include research activities." [45 CFR 46.102(d)]

If you answer “yes” to the questions below, then your project needs to be reviewed by the IRB.

  • Is the activity a systematic investigation?
  • Is it designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge?


  • Does the research involve obtaining information about living individuals?

Special Note about Classroom Projects:

Classroom projects do NOT need IRB review when:

  1. The results are NOT intended to be generalizable or published; The project is not intended to contribute to the discipline, address a theoretical issue or otherwise contribute to “generalizable knowledge”.
  2. The project is done purely as a pedagogical exercise, to teach students about the research process or discipline.
  3. The subjects are not part of a protected (vulnerable) population. Vulnerable populations are defined as persons who are:
    • Children (under the age of 18 years)
    • women who are pregnant
    • physically or mentally handicapped
    • socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged

      Note: SUNY Potsdam will not approve research with prisoners
  4. The project involves NO more than minimal risk (i.e., the level of risk that they would typically encounter in their daily lives).
    • During the project, the subjects are NOT asked about sensitive, personal, incriminating or private information or issues, nor is such information collected about them (this includes information about sexual behavior or attitudes, immigration status, drug use, criminal activity, medical history or conditions, grades, or other information that could stigmatize the subject).
    • No information is collected that could harm the subject’s reputation, employability, or financial standing or that could place the subject at risk for criminal or civil liability.
    • The project will NOT manipulate the behavior of subjects beyond the range of their typical daily life.
    • The project will NOT involve physically or psychologically invasive contact with subjects.
    • The project will NOT involve deception of subjects. Subjects are fully informed and given the opportunity to voluntarily consent to participation.

*Classroom projects are NOT undergraduate or graduate theses/professional projects.