Navigating IRB for SoTL Research: The IRB Process

Dr. Lindsay Harvell-Bowman is an Associate Professor in Communication Studies and the Vice Chair of James Madison University's Institutional Review Board. In these videos, she shares best practices for navigating the IRB process and considerations for SoTL research design from an ethical perspective. You will learn about the recent changes in exemptions and how that relates to SoTL studies, the consent process and when it is or is not necessary, and general tips for navigating the IRB process successfully for SoTL work. 

Frequently Asked Questions

I want to use information I collected as part of the course (e.g., assignments, grades etc.) for a SoTL study, do I need to submit an application to IRB?

  • Yes, when using information collected as part of any course for a SoTL study, you must submit an application to IRB.
What happens if the class is over and I can’t get consent from students? Can I still use that data?
  • This is determined by a case-by-case basis. Please contact IRB with your specific situation, and we can determine if consent is needed.
Can I have a “consent statement” in my syllabi to cover any future research I might do with the classroom information?
  • No. Due to legal implications, we do not allow consent statements in syllabi.
What are some common strategies to ensure my students don’t feel coerced into agreeing to participate in my classroom research?
  • The main way to combat coercion is to have someone other than the instructor ask for consent. It needs to be an individual that has no power over the student's grades.
What if my students are co-investigators? Do they have to go through the IRB training as well?
  • Yes, any investigator listed on the protocol must complete CITI training - the social behavioral course. This course takes approximately 2 hours.

Have more questions about SoTL research and want to ask for help? Contact:

There are many additional resources that can help address other questions you may have about the IRB process:
Practical advice/examples

West Virginia University: Navigating the IRB

This webinar from West Virginia University provides an introduction to conducting SoTL research and considerations for design and ethical research.

Back to Top