Many different types of research projects involving human subjects that are carried out under the auspices of Vassar College must be approved by the IRB before the project begins. This may include survey/questionnaire research, structured and semi-structured interviews, and experiments. Some forms of observational research require IRB approval. One year after approval, all ongoing research must be resubmitted for review. Also note that if your research is being conducted off campus, it must also be reviewed by the Vassar IRB, and may require review by another institution's IRB as well depending on where it is being done.

There are categories of research with human subjects that may be exempt from review. For example, some projects based on oral histories of one or two interviewees that are not intended to produce information that aims at "generalizable knowledge" may not involve "research as defined by the HHS regulations" (see Such projects are not ordinarily subject to IRB review. However, it is very important to determine whether your research project does require IRB review before proceeding to collect data. If you have any questions about the status of your project in this regard, please contact the IRB administrator, Ms. Gail Garrison, at 845.437.7368.

Even if your project does not constitute research, or is otherwise exempt from IRB review, it likely still requires the use of a release form signed by participants or their parents if it involves audio or video recording (see the Forms section of this website).

If your project does require IRB approval, make sure you submit your IRB application as a Word document to the IRB Administrator Ms. Gail Garrison at Please do NOT submit IRB applications directly to members of the IRB; doing so will result in lengthy processing delays.


Please make sure your procedures and consent forms meet the requirements for informed consent (Elements Necessary for Obtaining Informed Consent).

Risks: In general, it's best not to state that there are "no risks" involved in the research. According to federal guidelines, the lowest level of risk is "minimal risk."

"Minimal risk means that the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests."

Informed consent procedures require that the participants be told the types of potential risks (e.g., emotional, physical, etc) and the degree of risk.

Benefits: Potential benefits should be mentioned. In most cases, the participant will not benefit in any direct way from participation. Course credit, compensation and contributions to the knowledge base are not included in this section.

See the Application Checklist for other tips about speeding up the review process.