Getting IRB Approval

As a linguist, you may do research involving human subjects, as when you conduct an experiment on language comprehension or get linguistic data by interviewing a native speaker on campus or on a field trip. By federal law, any research that requires the investigator to interact with a human being requires prior approval by CU's Institutional Review Board (IRB). There are many kinds of human-subject research, each of which requires a different kind of review. Students often encounter IRB procedures first when planning class projects. Before undertaking any such project, you must complete an online tutorial in the protection of human research subjects through the CITI Program. The tutorial will take 45-60 minutes to complete, and the certificate of completion is valid for three years. The instructor of your course will need to see your certificate of completion before approving your research project. More complex projects, e.g., for an Honors thesis, an MA thesis or a PhD dissertation, require not only completion of the CITI tutorial but also online submission of the protocol review form to the IRB.

The Linguistics Department Subject Pool

For experimenters

If you are running experiments or studies and need access to subjects, some faculty and instructors in the Department allow undergraduate students in their classes to participate in such activities in exchange for extra credit. If you would like to recruit such students, you must first have all relevant approvals from the IRB, including approval of this potential recruitment method. At that point, please contact the Chair of the Department, who will then contact faculty and instructors who are offering extra credit for participation. The instructor(s) will announce the opportunity to their class, and provide your contact information to the students, if they feel the project is relevant to their class content. Be aware that the instructor may contact the Chair or the researcher directly in order to ascertain whether the experiment is relevant to the students in their class, and also how much extra credit might be offered. The study or experiment should constitute a true learning experience for the students, in the form of, e.g., a debriefing after the experiment or a feedback survey. Note that you may also recruit students whom you intend to pay, using the same method of contact. Of course in that case the instructor would not offer extra credit to the student participants. You may propose a project to the Chair at any time during the semester.

Please note that if a student seeking an extra-credit assignment in a course is ineligible to be a subject in a given experiment, that student can request an alternative extra-credit opportunity from the instructor. Therefore, if you are contacted by a student who you determine is not eligible to participate in your experiment (e.g., because your experiment requires native English speakers and the student is not a native speaker), you should not run that student as a subject merely to ensure that the student receives extra credit in the course. Instead, let the student know that the instructor of the course is required to offer him or her an alternative extra-credit opportunity and that s/he should contact the instructor to request the alternative option.

For instructors

Remember that we have a number of graduate students in the department who would appreciate access to an undergraduate research participant pool. Faculty and instructors who offer undergraduates in their class the opportunity to earn extra credit by volunteering for graduate student experiments can be of great assistance in this regard. If you would be willing to do this, please place the above notice in your syllabus, and notify the Chair that you have done so. Graduate student researchers with potential experiments will contact the Chair, and the Chair will then contact you. You can announce the opportunity to your class (or invite the researcher to do so), if you believe the experiment would be relevant to your class content. Please be aware that this cannot be the only form of extra-credit available in the class, in order to avoid the appearance that students are being coerced into participating. For the same reason, you may not recruit students from your own class for your own research projects. Note that graduate students can also potentially use these same recruitment channels to recruit students whom they intend to pay for their participation. Of course you would not offer extra credit in such a situation.

Suggested language for the syllabus

The Department of Linguistics has a number of graduate students who sometimes collect experimental or observational data from subjects. These experiments typically involve a limited amount of time, on a one-time basis, or can run for a few sessions. To assist these graduate students, and also provide an interesting opportunity for undergraduates in our program, students in this class will be offered extra credit for volunteering to participate in such studies, should such opportunities arise during this semester. An announcement will be made to the class offering this opportunity, if one occurs. Your participation in such activities is completely voluntary. It is also possible that a researcher might want to recruit students whom s/he will pay for participation in a project. An announcement for any such project, if one arises, will be made in the class, but of course you will not receive extra credit if you are paid.