Human Subjects Research
Any research that involves people can be considered ‘Human Subjects Research’ in a broad sense. If you are interested in conducting research (for example, a senior thesis or independent study) that will involve people answering questions, completing surveys, filling out forms, following instructions, and/or being observed (including participant observation) - or research that involves receiving data about identifiable individuals - you may need special approval to do this work.
All Universities have an ‘Institutional Review Board’ (IRB) which reviews research proposals involving humans and assesses whether or not the research can be approved, depending on what risk of harm the people taking part in the research might be exposed to.
This risk of harm can be physical, psychological, legal, or social and it is the job of the Columbia IRB to protect people who have voluntarily donated their time (even if they are compensated) in order to take part in any research that is conducted by a member of Columbia University.
Taking seriously the wellbeing of research participants is part of what makes a good researcher, and a good research project. In these pages, you will learn how to ensure that you conduct ethical research and the process for submitting your research proposal to the IRB for approval.
If you anticipate conducting human subject research, your first step is to attend an IRB Information Session.