Course Assignments That Use Human Subjects
Many student projects assigned as part of Thiel coursework bear superficial resemblance to Research, and might even be considered "research" at Thiel, but do not qualify as Research projects under the federal definition. Such is the case with some course assignments that mimic research but are intended only to teach students the basics of systematic investigation.
- Students in an introductory sociology course might be asked to administer questionnaires or conduct brief interviews using other students as subjects, not with the intention of contributing to generalizable knowledge, but to teach the student interviewers about how to conduct sociological research.
- If you do a straw poll of people in the Bistro about their favorite ice cream flavors, with no assumption that this is generalizable to a larger group, you are not doing research.
In such cases, course instructors (but not students) may decide on their own that the planned activities do not constitute Research under the federal definition and need not submit applications, or have their students submit applications to the IRB — provided that the subjects will be legal adults capable of giving informed consent and that the experiments present no more than minimal risk to the subjects.
If an instructor is not certain whether a planned activity constitutes Research, he/she should contact the IRB chair to discuss this question.
Even if a planned student project is clearly not Research by the federal definition, it is always acceptable for the instructor to require that students submit a formal application in order to teach them about the ethical treatment of human subjects and the workings of a review committee such as the IRB.