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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to inform the IRB about my study, if no human subjects are involved?

Generally, the answer is no. But there are ethical considerations in all research, which at times will require filing an application with the IRB. For example, publicly available data sets that are stripped of identifiers do not require IRB review, but at times the archive hosting the data explicitly requires prior IRB approval before releasing the data for use. Ethical considerations are necessary when using secondary data (e.g. in historical research). "Publicly available" means that the general public can obtain the data. Data are not considered "publicly available" if access to the data is limited to researchers. NLU's IRB refers the student to the agency/institution from which the data is to be retrieved. Students are advised to work with their committee and, if uncertainty remains, contact the IRB.

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I am writing an autobiography. Should I give consent forms to individuals I am going to mention in my study?

Generally, the answer is no. "In sociology, anthropology and related fields, postmodern ethnography, autobiography, or autoethnography is a narrative method in which the investigator and "subject" are one and the same. That is, the investigator reports on his or her own experiences and perspectives. In this form of narrative reporting, the investigator is not considered a research subject, and IRB approval is not required." (Taken from the Syracuse University IRB Handbook, p. 10) Students should work closely with their committees to insure that ethical issues are addressed and persons mentioned in their research are protected.

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Does the collection of data by observation require IRB review?

Research involving the observation of public behavior, including observation by participants, is exempt, if observations are recorded in such a manner that individual human subjects cannot be identified. The collection of data by observation is also exempt as long as the disclosure of these observations cannot reasonably place anyone at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subject's financial standing, employability, or reputation. If this observation occurs inside a business or organization, then proper consents need to be obtained from the business or organization.

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I want to video-tape my research subjects. Does the IRB have additional requirements regarding this procedure?

Because of the inability to maintain anonymity all the proposals involving the use of video are subject to expedited or full review. There are special considerations if the research subjects are minors. If a parent or guardian does not give consent, the student cannot be video-taped and the camera needs to be positioned in a way so that the student is not visible and yet not excluded from the full participation in the classroom. Given the many possibilities for abuse, chairs should work closely with their advisees to ensure ethical handling of videotapes above and beyond IRB procedures.

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What are the IRB recommendations for posting pictures and artifacts in my study?

Generally, anonymity of the participants should be maintained. Institutions must be protected as well. IRB suggests masking all identifiable markers. However, if the participants agree to forego anonymity, the pictures and artifacts could be included in the study. Proposals involving the usage of pictures and artifacts are subject to expedited or full review.

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Can I use the data I collected for my classroom assignment as data for my research?

"Students in graduate research courses sometimes use projects to refine their research interests and provide a foundation for a thesis or dissertation. A project initially conducted to learn research methods may yield data that the student subsequently wishes to use to contribute to knowledge. In order to use these data for theses and dissertations, students must either 1) demonstrate that individuals provided informed consent for the project at the time, through procedures approved by the instructor, or 2) obtain consent from people to use previously collected information according to procedures approved by the IRB. Instructors of research method courses are encouraged to send a memo to the IRB chair listing the students and indicating that the projects were conducted under the instructor's supervision and in accord with procedures approved by the instructors." (Taken from the Syracuse University IRB Handbook, p. 6)

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Can I collect data in chat rooms and internet forums without informing the members of those forums? Does the IRB have requirements in this regard?

Internet data collection via e-mail, listservs, electronic bulletin boards and web surveys falls under the purview of the IRB. The Internet is an insecure medium as data in transit is vulnerable. So, internet data collection is rarely private, anonymous or even confidential. The potential source of risk is the harm resulting from a breach of confidentiality. For a chat room that is not open to the public, students should inform participants that an observation is taking place, and that any information exchanged may be used for research purposes. In addition to the human subjects regulations, researchers working with children online are subjects to Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA, available at Researchers are prohibited from collecting personal information from a child without posting notices about how the information will be used and without getting verifiable parental consent. Screen out minors by checking for Internet Monitoring software like SafeSurf and RSACi ratings or using Adult Check systems. Research that places human subjects at greater risk may not be appropriate for the Internet. (Taken from the University of Georgia's IRB Web site:

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Is there a time when a participant in a study can no longer withdraw consent?

Our sample form says: I understand that my participation is voluntary and can be discontinued at any time without prejudice before the completion of the study.

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Are there circumstances in which confidentiality does not need to be (or cannot be) maintained?

Yes. For example, when the research participants are elected or appointed public officials, candidates for public office, or well-known public figures. Another example would be those instances in which the context of a study-e.g. the institution or location-are known and would make it impossible to disguise the identity of participants. The consent form should explain why anonymity will not be maintained and the research will require the IRB's expedited or full review.

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Am I required to give copies of transcripts to my participants for review?

Our sample form says: I understand that upon request I will receive a copy of my transcripts. That line can be omitted, however, when transcripts are not available or when, in the view of the researcher, providing copies of transcripts would serve no useful purpose.

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When do I need to have written authorization from an organization e.g., an institution, shopping mall, school) in order to gather data from persons affiliated with or served by that organization?

Students always should follow the policy and requirements of the institutions that are chosen as a research site or data collection source. When there are not specific policies or requirements within an agency, the student should work with his/her committee advisor to ensure that ethical practices are followed.

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What is the timeframe for getting my IRB approved?

Timeframe: From completion of application to receiving your approval letter
Exempt & Expedited IRBs- Up to 30 days
Full Review IRBs- Over 30 days

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    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

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    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

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    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

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    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

    850 Warrenville Road
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    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

    1000 Capitol Drive
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    Established in 1988 and located in one of Tampa's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to its classrooms, the National Louis University Tampa Regional Center features a computer lab, student lounges, and conference room.

    5110 Sunforest Drive, Suite 102
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