Institutional Review Board


The St. Olaf Institutional Review Board (IRB) provides training and reviews for research projects that study people. The college affirms the ethical principles of respect, beneficence, and justice. These principles inform federal policy for the protection of human subjects and St. Olaf’s approach to preparing researchers to thoughtfully protect the rights and well-being of participants in their projects. St. Olaf is accountable to the federal Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) for the ethical conduct of inquiry projects involving people.

Does your project need an IRB application?

Any project involving people needs to observe the principles of respect, beneficence, and justice, but not all need to be reviewed by the IRB. Answer these questions to start learning about the expectations for you and your project.

Will you collect or analyze information from or about people, whether through surveys, interviews, focus groups, observations of behavior, or analysis of existing records?

Your project is not considered research with human participants and you do not need an IRB application. You can email with a description of your project to be sure.
Will your project focus on interviewing and recording someone recalling past events?

This might be an oral history, which has a different review procedure. Learn more.
Will your project do any of the following? (Hover your cursor over each item in red for a definition.)

    • study individuals outside St. Olaf (i.e., not current students or employees)
    • potentially include the sharing of results with audiences beyond St. Olaf
    • pose some kind of risk for the people being studied
    • focus on the study of a vulnerable population (vulnerable to coercion or undue influence)
    • have funding from a federal agency that has adopted federal regulations governing the protection of human subjects (scroll to the bottom of that link to see list of agencies)
You will need to submit an IRB application, which includes an Ethics Plan and possibly additional materials, such as survey questions. Your project is considered a Type 2 (beyond the college no-risk project) if you answered “no” to the final three questions and a Type 3 (project involving risk or studying vulnerable participants) if you answered “yes” to at least one of the final three questions. Don’t worry if you’re not sure if the final questions apply to your project; the Ethics Plan will help you figure that out. See the requirements here.
Your project is considered a Type 1 (within the college no-risk project). Although you do not need to submit an application to the IRB, you will need to do some reading and you may need to submit an Ethics Plan to a supervisor. See the requirements here.


Ready to apply or need additional resources?

Requirements and Resources explains what you will need to do to submit an application and offers information on oral history projects.
Ethics Plan and Related Forms has materials for initial applications and requests to continue approved projects. It includes permission forms and a review form that can be used for projects that do not need to be reviewed by an IRB member.