Defining Human Subjects Research
To understand what is meant by Human Subjects Research under the regulations, it is helpful to begin by reviewing the definitions provided by the regulations. After reviewing these definitions, if you are still unsure if your project falls under the regulations, please do not hesitate to contact the IRB Office.
The federal regulations in 45 CFR 46.102, give the following definitions:
A systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.
A living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains
- data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or
- identifiable private information.
Methodically testing (quantitatively or qualitatively) a hypothesis or research question by gathering and analyzing data with the intention of drawing conclusions
Examples of systematic investigations are:
- Focus groups
- Participant observation
- Existing data analysis
- Program evaluation
- Social or psychological experiments
- Drug trials
Data designed to apply to a population beyond the research subjects themselves and contribute to current academic understanding
Generalizable knowledge generally refers to:
- Published papers
- Oral presentations
- Posters at a conference
- Dissertation or thesis
If a project is only to be conducted for a class project, it is not considered generalizable knowledge. But please keep in mind that if you are planning to use your class project as the basis for further research later on, which meets the definition of "human subjects research," you will need IRB approval for the class project (IRB approval is not retroactive).