Research Policies

The Psychology Department believes strongly that investigative learning is central to your education in psychology. Accordingly, many of our courses require or provide opportunities for developing empirical skills. Directed Research provides an intensive research experience from beginning to end in one semester. Other courses include labs and projects that serve these goals as well. All research projects, whether using human or nonhuman animal subjects, will undergo a process of rigorous ethical review. This process is intended to guarantee that all research conforms to the strictest codes of conduct dictated by the American Psychological Association.

Research Involving Human Participants (Revised September 2010)

The Psychology Department adheres to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

The following list provides a useful summary of several key concepts featured in the APA guidelines (excerpted from [Korn, J. H. (1988). Students' roles, rights, and responsibilities as research participants. Teaching of Psychology, 15, 74-78]):

  1. Participants should know the general purpose of the study and what they will be expected to do. Beyond this, they should be told everything a reasonable person would want to know in order to decide whether or not to participate.
  2. Participants have the right to withdraw from a study at any time after beginning participation in the research. A participant who chooses to withdraw has the right to receive whatever benefits were promised.
  3. Participants should expect to receive benefits that outweigh the costs or risks involved. To achieve the educational benefit, participants have the right to ask questions and to receive clear, honest answers. When participants do not receive what was promised, they have the right to remove their data from the study.
  4. Participants have the right to expect that anything done or said during their participation in a study will remain anonymous and confidential, unless they specifically agree to give up this right.
  5. Participants have the right to decline to participate in any study and may not be coerced into research. When learning about research is a course requirement, an equivalent alternative to participation should be available.
  6. Participants have a right to know when they have been deceived in a study and why the deception was used. If the deception seems unreasonable, participants have the right to withhold their data.
  7. When any of these rights are violated or participants object to anything about a study, they have the right and the responsibility to inform the appropriate college officials, including the chairperson of the Psychology Department and the Institutional Review Board.



Research must not be conducted until you receive notification from the PRB chair (Darcy Burgund, ).

1. All students and faculty conducting research with human subjects must complete a Research Proposal Application. The application will include electronic copies of all questionnaires (scanned if necessary), detailed descriptions of stimuli for the experimental and control conditions, and all necessary consent and debriefing protocols. All application materials need to be emailed as a SINGLE electronic file (Word or PDF files only) to the PRB chair, Darcy Burgund (). 

2. The PRB chair will confirm that proposal is appropriate for review by the PRB (according to guidelines below). In the event that the study will need to be reviewed by the college's Institutional Review Board (IRB), the PRB chair will return the application and detail why it is more appropriate for the IRB.

3. The PRB chair will assign a human subjects tracking number to the application and will then submit the Application Packet for review to two additional reviewers. Members of the PRB will be selected at the beginning of each academic year, and no faculty member will be involved in the review of her/his own research. When a PRB member submits an application for review, s/he will be replaced on the committee by another faculty member.

4. Each committee member will make a recommendation about whether the study a) passes, b) passes pending modification, c) requires further review, or d) does not pass. The PRB chair makes a decision based on the committee members' recommendations. When committee members' recommendations differ, the chair's decision will reflect the weakest recommendation, except in the case of a 'no pass' recommendation. In cases of a non-unanimous 'no pass' recommendation, the committee will meet to discuss the proposal and come to a unanimous decision. In cases where a unanimous decision cannot be made, the proposal will be directed to the IRB.

5. The PRB chair notifies the student and/or faculty member of the decision and, if applicable, the modifications required by the committee. If modifications are necessary, the applicant needs to make the required changes, resubmit the application via email, and detail how the required changes were made. Changes should be highlighted in the text so that they are easily identifiable by the committee members.

6. After initial approval, a request for renewal will be sent to faculty researchers at the beginning of each academic year. If requests are not completed within 30 days, the protocol will no longer be active and will be archived. To complete a renewal, researchers will submit a PRB Annual Renewal Form to the PRB chair. Directed Research projects will be archived (i.e., considered inactive) at the end of each semester unless the student or her/his faculty supervisor notifies the PRB chair that the research will continue after the semester.

7. After approval, if the applicant wishes to make any changes to the methodology other than a change to the number of human participants, s/he will submit an addendum to the PRB chair including the original human subjects number and approval date, as well as details of any changes in the research protocol.



Research conducted within the Psychology Department by psychology students and/or faculty must be approved by the Psychology Review Board (PRB). This includes all research except:

1. Research conducted as part of a course, the results of which will only be discussed or presented within the class. This research must be approved by the class instructor. It is essential that instructors respect and protect the rights of the participants in research conducted as part of a course (whether the participants be the students in the course or other individuals). Instructors will approve research as part of the course only if it meets the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association. These studies will not expose participants to undue harm or distress (i.e., risks greater than those typically experienced in daily life). Instructors will think carefully about any possible risks and benefits to the participant and aim to reduce the risks as much as possible. Instructors will be particularly vigilant about potential risks associated with coercion and consent, unintended disclosure because of the public nature of the research, and risk for embarrassment or discomfort. Instructors will do their best to avoid these risks, and they will engage in appropriate briefing and debriefing if risks are possible. When in doubt, instructors are encouraged to email the PRB chair with questions about what is appropriate to approve without PRB committee review. If you are unsure as to whether a consent form is necessary for research as part of a course, please consult the PRB chair.

2. Research involving minors or vulnerable adults. Under most circumstances, this research must be approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The sole exception to this rule is if research with minors is conducted as part of a course and does not include activities different from those typically experienced in daily life (e.g., observations, educational tasks similar to what children do in school). In this situation, the research can be approved by the class instructor rather than the IRB. If you are unsure as to whether a consent form is necessary, please consult the PRB chair.

3. Research in which participants are exposed to risks greater than those typically experienced in daily life. Examples include, but are not limited to, studies involving drug administration, obtaining blood samples, and participating in activities that involve the likely risk of causing significant physical or psychological distress. This research must be approved by the IRB.

4. Research involving animal subjects. This research must be approved by the IACUC.

Questions about which board (PRB or IRB) must approve a particular proposal may be directed to the PRB chair.



1) Directed Research Projects: Directed Research students will learn to apply the APA's ethical guidelines to their own projects and to the projects of their peers. Each student will be responsible for preparing a Research Proposal Application for his or her own study, as described above. In most circumstances, the review of the student's project will be conducted as an educational exercise by another section of Directed Research under the supervision of a faculty member. If there are concerns raised during the process, the student will then submit her/his Review Packet to the Psychology Review Board. Approved Directed Research Review Packets must be submitted to Jamie Atkins before data can be collected from human participants.

2) Research involving extramural funding: Projects that receive extramural funding will be forwarded to the college-wide Institutional Review Committee. Informational about the materials needed for this level of review are available from the Office of Institutional Research.



Student participation in Department-approved research may take the form of course research credit, a chance to win prizes, or direct payment, as described below.

1. Course Research Credits via the Participant Pool. The primary vehicle for compensation is course research credit for Introductory Psychology. Each semester, Introductory Psychology students are required to fulfill a research requirement, and one option for satisfying this requirement is to participate in Department-approved studies. Participation credits are awarded in half-hour intervals according to the time spent engaged in the study. Research participation credit is not offered for online survey studies except under unusual circumstances (e.g., when a very specific population is required or when the survey is unusually long and/or onerous).

2. Lottery Tickets. Students who are not in the Participant Pool may be awarded lottery tickets in return for research participation at a rate of 1 ticket per 1/2 hour of research activity (not including online survey studies). At the end of the semester a lottery may be held to award prizes to the owners of randomly selected lottery tickets. These prizes will not exceed $150 in total value, nor $50 for any one prize.

3. Direct Payment. Occasionally, faculty members or student researchers may wish to pay students directly to participate in their studies. This option will be exercised only under unusual circumstances (e.g., when a very specific population is needed or the tasks involved are particularly arduous)and requires approval by the Psychology Review Board.

Perhaps the most valuable form of compensation is the thanks and good-will one receives for volunteering in a fellow student's research study and helping further our knowledge in the discipline. The Department strongly encourages students to participate in this fashion and urges researchers to seek volunteers whenever possible (unless volunteers would introduce an undesired selection bias).