The following guidelines apply to any research involving the use of human subjects by the students in Sociology courses, including Independent Study. Faculty members in the department should follow the procedures set out by the College for Human Subjects approval for their own research projects.
There are three levels of review of student research. No matter which level a student's project falls under, all students doing research involving human subjects must be thoroughly briefed by a faculty member (preferably, the faculty supervisor of their research project) on the relevant ethical issues as set out in the College's Human Subjects Guidelines and must submit the Human Subjects Review Form to the person(s) or groups set out below.
Once a project receives approval, the student can conduct his/her research using human subjects. Under no circumstances may a student proceed without that approval.
The three levels of review are as follows:
INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS IN COURSES. In some courses (e.g. Sociology of Gender), students may do research projects involving human subjects. Under these circumstances, students should submit the Human Subjects Review Form along with any other required material1 to their instructor who will then decide if the proposal requires further review or whether the instructor would be the appropriate individual to make the decision concerning Human Subjects. In general, proposals involving only F&M students can be reviewed by the instructor, as can observation-based studies that do not involve the identification of individual subjects. However, proposals involving off-campus subjects, protocols that make it difficult to hide the identity of the respondents, and/or projects on sensitive topics (e.g. sex, drugs, alcohol use, criminal behavior) must be reviewed at a higher level.
INDEPENDENT STUDY PROJECTS/LARGER PROJECTS. Larger projects, such as those engaged in during an Independent Study, a researched-based seminar, or a collective course project, such as the student-written survey in SOC302, must be reviewed by an internal review committee composed of at least two faculty members, not including the faculty member who is advising the research. If the project involves data gathering off campus, it must be sent to the college-wide Human Subjects Committee (see below). If the internal review committee finds cause for concern, the proposal can be submitted to the college-wide Human Subjects Committee for final disposition.
OFF-CAMPUS RESEARCH. Any research involving data gathering off-campus must be approved by the college-wide Human Subjects Committee. Exception: Research that is conducted as part of a community-based learning course may be used within that class for papers, journal entries, or memos. However, if the student wishes to use the material outside of the class (e.g. a paper for another class, or a research presentation to outsiders), this use must be approved by a departmental human subjects committee.
At any "lower" stage in this process, reviewers should refer to the next stage for any projects that seem problematic with respect to human subjects issues. The ultimate arbiter of such matters is the College's Human Subjects Committee.
Note: The addition of "research-based seminars" in the second category is pro-active: we do not currently have any such courses, but may in the future. The reasoning is that if students are doing a project that IS the entire class--as they might in a researched-based senior seminar--they should go beyond the instructor for approval.
1By their instructor