Institutional Review Board: Guidelines
Please note: whenever feasible, researchers should use consent forms when conducting interviews. For an example of an interview consent form, please see Example Consent Form below.
- interviewees are aware of their rights including the right to retract content and revoke consent for a limited time after completing the interview
- interviewees consent to video or audio recording of the interview
- interviewees state whether they would prefer their identities to remain confidential (quotes are attributed to pseudonyms) or whether they prefer to be explicitly identified
- the interviewer will explain to the interviewee the degree of confidentiality and public use of the recordings and these assurance will be enforced in practice
- if quotes from the interview are to be used by the interviewer, the interviewee will have the right to review the use of the quotes in context
- the interviewer will provide contact information to the interviewee so that he or she can exercise that right
- risk and benefits of participation are provided to the interviewee
- the interviewee is aware at the outset approximately how long the interview may be expected to last
- the interviewee is fully informed that he or she may stop the interview at any time
Risk: Please be explicit and complete when describing the potential risks to your participants. The IRB does not expect research to be risk free, but it has an obligation to evaluate the risks and benefits of each proposal, and it can be difficult for the IRB to assess risks in other cultures.
Degree to which participants are fully informed: The standard written informed consent agreement covers the most important points about which participants must be informed. If you are going to use an oral consent procedure, or if you choose to make up a written form that is more appropriate for your research population, you should still be sure to inform participants of these major points: what they will be asked to do, what risks they might be exposed to, and how you will handle the interview in terms of confidentiality, and most importantly, that participation is fully voluntary and that they can end the interview and withdraw from the study at any time without penalty.)
Documentation of consent: The standard written informed consent agreement provides you with documentation that participants gave informed consent, and it partially protects you and affiliated individuals and institutions from later charges of misconduct. The IRB recommends that written documentation of informed consent be obtained whenever it is appropriate and possible to do so. However, if in your judgment obtaining written consent is inappropriate or risky in itself, please explain why, and explain what you will do to document consent. One alternative is to tape record the interview, or at least the informed consent procedures.
(The guidelines above were adapted from protocols developed by the University of Virginia.)
- Oral History Evaluation Guidelines
- Program/Project Guidelines
- Purposes and Objectives
- Are the purposes clearly set forth? How realistic are they?
- What factors demonstrate a significant need for the project?
- What is the research design? How clear and realistic is it?
- Are the terms, conditions, and objectives of funding clearly made known to judge the potential effect of such funding on the scholarly integrity of the project? Is the allocation of funds adequate to allow the project goals to be accomplished?
- How do institutional relationships affect the purposes and objectives?
- Research conducted in established or commonly accepted educational settings, involving normal educational practices, such as:
- research on regular and special educational instructional strategies, or
- research on the effectiveness of or the comparison among instructional techniques, curricula, or classroom management methods
- Research involving the use of educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement), survey procedures, interview procedures, or observation of public behavior unless:
- Information obtained is recorded in such a manner that human subjects can be identified, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects; and
- any disclosure of the human subjects' responses outside the research could reasonably place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects' financial standing, employability, or reputation.
- Research involving the use of educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement), survey procedures, interview procedures, or observation of public behavior, if:
- The human subjects are elected or appointed public officials or candidates for public office: or
- federal statue(s) require(s) without exception that the confidentiality of the personally identifiable information will be maintained throughout the research and thereafter.
- Research involving the collection or study of existing data documents, records, pathological specimens, or diagnostic specimens, if these sources are publicly available or if the information is recorded by the investigator in such a manner that subjects cannot be identified, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects.
- Research and demonstration projects which are conducted by or subject to the approval of department or agency heads, and which are designed to study, evaluate or otherwise examine:
- Public benefit or service programs;
- procedures for obtaining benefits or services under those programs;
- possible changes in or alternatives to those programs or procedures; or
- possible changes in methods or levels of payment for benefits or services under those programs.
- Taste and food quality evaluation and consumer acceptance studies:
- if wholesome foods without additives are consumed or
- if a food is consumed that contains a food ingredient at or below the level and for a use found to be safe, or agricultural chemical or environmental contaminant at or below the level found to be safe, by the Food and Drug Administration or approved by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Whenever feasible, researchers should use consent forms when conducting interviews. Here is an example of what an interview consent form might look like. Note: Information marked [in italics] is required, but then delete the bracketed material italics when you fill in the content appropriate to your own project. Adaptation of this template should be discussed with your faculty adviser. (This template is adapted from this form, provided by Malaspina University-College.)
Project Title: Why the change? [Title]
Faculty Adviser: Claire Vérité [Name]
During this study, you will be asked to answer some questions as to why you converted to your current religion. This interview was designed to be approximately a half hour in length [Estimated Duration]. However, please feel free to expand on the topic or talk about related ideas. Also, if there are any questions you would rather not answer or that you do not feel comfortable answering, please say so and we will stop the interview or move on to the next question, whichever you prefer. [Description]
All the information will be kept confidential. I will keep the data in a secure place. Only myself and the faculty supervisor mentioned above will have access to this information. Upon completion of this project, all data will be destroyed or stored in a secure location. [Confidentiality; indicate what will become of data]
I am aware that my participation in this interview is voluntary. I understand the intent and purpose of this research. If, for any reason, at any time, I wish to stop the interview, I may do so without having to give an explanation.
The researcher has reviewed the individual and social benefits and risks of this project with me [Students should review minimal risks checklist prior to interview]. I am aware the data will be used in a Senior Project that will be publicly available at the Stevenson Library on the Bard College Campus. I have the right to review, comment on, and/or withdraw information prior to the Senior Project's submission. The data gathered in this study are confidential with respect to my personal identity unless I specify otherwise. [If participant is being tape recorded:] I understand if I say anything that I believe may incriminate myself, the interviewer will immediately rewind the tape and record over the potentially incriminating information. The interviewer will then ask me if I would like to continue the interview.
If I have any questions about this study, I am free to contact the student researcher ([contact information]) or the faculty adviser ([contact information]). If I have any questions about my rights as a research participant, I am free to contact the chair of Institutional Review Board: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been offered a copy of this consent form that I may keep for my own reference.
I have read the above form and, with the understanding that I can withdraw at any time and for whatever reason, I consent to participate in today's interview.
Participant's signature Date
Remember that data collected through email responses is NEVER “anonymous," only “confidential," because participants are identifiable through their email addresses. If you are distributing surveys through email, you should include the following statement in your consent process:
“Although it is unlikely that anyone will try to gain access to your email, you have the right to know that email transmissions are not private and therefore transmission of information through this form cannot be guaranteed to remain confidential.”
As an aside, there are a few methodological drawbacks to using the Internet for data collection. For example, the population of respondents is rarely a random sample from your true population of interest, perhaps violating the accuracy of generalizing your findings to the general population. Furthermore, it is difficult to insure the accuracy of participant characteristics, such as self-reported inclusion in demographic categories. It is also difficult to monitor and exclude multiple responses from the same participant or, in the case of responses using accuracy and reaction time, whether participants are fully focusing on the task or multitasking while they complete the study (see also Pittenger, 2003). For senior project research, it is important that you discuss these and other concerns with your faculty adviser and that you address these methodological constraints in the discussion of your results.
These methodological concerns are NOT a concern for the IRB EXCEPT to the extent that data collection may place your participants at risk. For example, if you were to ask sensitive or potentially incriminating information, email addresses, IP addresses, monitoring of computer use in public spaces, recovery of Internet cache or cookies, date and time of login, information tagged by survey tool websites, and perhaps even individually-identifying information provided by a respondent could all compromise not only the assumed anonymity of respondents, but even confidentiality. In the worst case (unlikely, but not impossible), a participant may face legal charges, or personal, financial, or physical harm due to responding to sensitive questions presented in a survey. The role of the IRB is not to prevent or impair the investigation of sensitive or difficult issues. Bard College maintains a policy of academic freedom and as researchers we appreciate the value of confronting difficult, sensitive, and unpopular topics. It is the role of the researcher to ensure that participants are fully aware of their rights, risks, and responsibilities as they contribute to increased understanding of social and scientific knowledge (Sieber & Stanley, 1988). The role of the IRB in this process is as a national and required body of oversight to affirm that researchers are meeting their responsibilities toward their participants.
Contact the IRB
IRB MembersHere are seven representatives on Bard's Institutional Review board:
six faculty from the College plus one community representative.
Please feel free to contact any of us if you have any questions about the IRB process.
- Tabetha Ewing
- Peter Klein
- Gautam Sethi
- Simeen Sattar (chair, email@example.com)
- Georganna Ulary (community representative)
- Peter Gadsby (administrative representative)