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Students as Study Subjects in Educational Research: Home

Students as Study Subjects

Students enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School may occasionally be recruited for participation in scholarly projects involving the curriculum.  These projects may be initiated or directed by faculty members or fellow students.  Such projects may include surveys or randomized studies, and may recruit students from the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biological Sciences, or the Graduate School of Nursing.  Students are considered a vulnerable population because of their relationship to faculty members who may be evaluating them in the course of their required studies, or who may have influence on students’ admission to residency programs.

The purpose of these guidelines is to address the increasing concerns about protecting the rights and welfare of students who participate as human subjects in research conducted at the institution where they are enrolled. The main concerns include: (a) the potential for undue influence on the voluntariness of student participation, (b) the potential for breach of confidentiality, and (c) survey burden. These concerns must be weighed against student autonomy and the schools’ obligation to respect the right of students to choose whether or not to participate in research.

All human subjects research, including research involving students, must be submitted to the UMass Chan Institutional Review Board (IRB) for review and approval prior to initiation. Prior review and approval is required regardless of whether the research is deemed to fit an exempt or expedited review category or to require review by the convened IRB. In general, routine, scheduled course/instructor evaluations used for quality improvement would not be considered in the scope of educational research. Please visit for more information.

After obtaining IRB approval, all recruitment and links to surveys for curricular projects or other non-sensitive topics can go out through the SBC Research Bulletin. Please submit your survey to the research bulletin at this link. Posting of research is also permitted through locally managed groups with the owner’s permission (e.g., UMass Chan class Facebook groups, UMass Chan interest group listservs). UMass Chan has determined that researchers are not permitted to use institutional listservs.

All research involving the curriculum requires permission of the course director. If you have not spoken with the course director about your project, please do that as a first step.

All research involving sensitive topics that will purposely recruit students from the UMass Worcester campus as human subjects requires prior review by the Students as Subjects Ad Hoc Advisory Group. The outcome of SAS review must be provided in writing for IRB review. If you have a sensitive topic or are unsure if your topic is sensitive, please contact

Recruiting Students