Instructors of research methods courses have a unique opportunity to teach students how to conduct human subjects research. One way to accomplish this is to have students conduct a research project as a course assignment. The Course Related Student Project policy and checklist help instructors identify when a class research project qualifies for an exception or may require Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.

According to UI policy (University of Iowa Operations Manual, Section II, Ch. 27.4), “Teachers who assign or supervise research conducted by students also have an obligation to consider carefully whether those students are qualified to adequately safeguard the rights and welfare of subjects.”

Course-Related Student Projects

Course-required student research projects that meet certain criteria are not required to obtain Institutional Review Board approval. Course-Related Student Projects are typically conducted to help students learn how to conduct research. These requirements are outlined in the Course-Related Student Project Policy (UI IRB Standard Operating Procedure and Researcher Guide, Section I, Part 12.D)

Guidance and Resources:

Serving as a Faculty Advisor for a Student Project

When students conduct human subjects research as a course assignment, the instructor may serve as their Faculty Advisor or this role may be assumed by another faculty member. Remember that a thesis or dissertation project that involves human subjects research—even if it began as a course project—likely requires IRB review and approval due to the intent to contribute to generalizable knowledge. Course instructors should inform themselves of the responsibilities of a Faculty Advisor as well as those of the student PI.

Classroom or Small Group Presentations

The IRB Education and Outreach Program offers a variety of educational presentations about human subjects research and the IRB. Anyone at the University of Iowa can request a presentation from the Human Subjects Office. Research methods courses request the majority of our presentations, and many of our educational opportunities serve to provide an overview of human subjects research generally and the IRB review process. We have a standard 50-minute IRB Overview presentation, or we can offer a 30-minute version. We can also tailor the presentation to focus on other aspects of human subjects research. To learn more about these presentations, visit the Get Help page.

Every semester we email instructors of research-oriented courses to offer a presentation. Didn’t receive an email? Feel free to contact us at or call 319-335-6564.

Online Training in Human Subjects Protections

Some instructors require that students complete the online training in human subjects protections as a class assignment. Training through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Program satisfies a training requirement for anyone who will serve as the Principal Investigator or be named on a research team in HawkIRB. Student PIs must also complete required modules for student investigators in the IRB ICON Course for Researchers. Completing this training now will help students prepare to submit their own HawkIRB application or be added to a research team. Human subjects protection training through the CITI program is a great way for students to learn about the history of human subjects protections, the ethical principles that apply, and why the federal regulations were established.  Students may submit the certificate of completion to their instructor, or an instructor can check for completion in the Certified Investigator Database.