Ethical Compliance

Institutional Review Board

Student Research Projects and Classroom Projects

General Information

LAU students conducting research project at the Lebanese American University (LAU) or LAU Medical Center–Rizk Hospital (LAUMC–RH) must receive the necessary approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at LAU as detailed below. Please read the following information carefully in order to identify which category your research falls under.

LAU students, conducting their research outside LAU or LAUMC–RH, must receive approval from the IRB at LAU as well as approval from the respective committee responsible for research involving human subjects or necessary approval where the study will be conducted.

Students are subject to the same requirements and policies set forth for the conduct of research as described below.


Research, as defined in the Regulations - CFR Title 45, Part 46, is a systematic investigation (an organized, scientific way of collecting information, using a series of questions or observations) designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge (i.e. knowledge shared by professionals in a given field which is designed to contribute to that field).

Data is collected from a “human subject”, who is a living individual about whom an investigator (a faculty member, staff or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information.

Above definitions are important to remember when students (undergraduate and/or graduate) are planning to conduct independent class projects, senior or honor’s theses, master’s projects, doctoral dissertations, or participate in research methodology courses. Application and submission procedures and requirements for students to follow are described in below two categories:

Mentor / Faculty Advisor

Each student must have a mentor or a faculty advisor where the research will be taking place. The faculty advisor or mentor must be available to assist the student with developing their protocol, preparing all required documents for submission to the IRB and securing appropriate approvals prior to commencing their research.

Faculty advisors play an important role in the students’ design and development of human participant research projects. Faculty advisors are ultimately responsible for the protection of the subjects, even if the student is the primary researcher and actually directs the project, and are also responsible for research that is conducted as part of a course.

Faculty advisors and course instructors are required to review codes of ethics relevant to the discipline of study.

Categories of Research Projects by Students

Below are the two categories detailing submission requirement. Regardless which category your research project falls under, it is important to include an introductory information section prior to any data collection tool such as surveys, interview scripts, questionnaires etc. Sample introductions are available under Applications, Forms and Supporting Documents on the IRB website.

Category 1- Student Research

Student research activities include, but are not limited to, projects that result in undergraduate honors theses, masters theses, or doctoral dissertations.

Submission Requirements

Student researchers have the same submission options as any investigator. They may submit as Principal Investigator (PI) with a faculty advisor as co-signator, which may be appropriate for new projects where the student has a leading role.

Student researcher, co-investigators (if a group) and faculty advisor / classroom instructors are required to have current research ethics certification.

Common Scenarios

  • RESEARCH that involves direct interaction with individuals (e.g., in person, or via mail, email, web survey, or telephone), or data from human subjects for which the researchers will have access to identifiers.
  • RESEARCH-like activities using departmental subject pools (e.g., Psychology, Business, Political Science, Journalism and Mass Communication) even when the activity is conducted for educational purposes as a class requirement.
  • RESEARCH that is limited to secondary analysis of data, records or specimens that are either publicly available, de-identified or otherwise impossible to be linked to personal identities

Category 2- Classroom Projects

Classroom project activities as part of Graduate and undergraduate research methodology courses: Abbreviated Review Procedure

General Guidelines

The IRB recognizes that graduate and undergraduate research methodology courses are designed to teach students research skills through a combination of readings, lectures and research activities or projects. The purpose of such research projects is for the student to apply what is being taught (i.e. use skills outside of the classroom) rather than to contribute to existing research literature in a field. Accordingly, the IRB has developed special guidelines for such class projects.

An instructor who wishes to make use of this abbreviated review procedure:

  • must first diligently review each student’s proposal to determine its acceptability and then submit according to the procedures described below.
  • is responsible for providing the necessary training in respecting the privacy of the individuals, the confidentiality of the data along with training in the relevant professional ethics. Such training must be listed in the course syllabus and submitted to the IRB
  • Must ensure that instructor and all teaching assistants have completed the online CITI training course and have submitted their completion certificate to the IRB

Instructors are encouraged to contact the IRB for guidance about ways to handle topics such as privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, and professional ethics when class projects are part of the course syllabus. These issues may still remain even when IRB approval is not required, in which case instructors, advisors and department play an even greater role in providing the appropriate guidance and oversight.

Note: Students planning to use a class-based project as part of an undergraduate senior/honor’s thesis, master’s thesis, doctoral dissertation, independent study project, or for submitting it for off campus publication or presentation must follow the IRB review procedures before commencing the project (see Student Research Category 1 above)

Submission Requirements - Abbreviated Process

Course instructors must submit a Class Project Research Application each semester. This application will include a descriptive title of each student project, the student investigator’s name, and the type and estimated number of subjects who will be enrolled by using the Class Project Research IRB Application. The Class Project Research IRB Application form must be signed by the course instructor and submitted to the IRB Office at least one (1) week before the research is to begin. No student research project involving human subjects may begin until the instructor has submitted the application and it has been accepted by the IRB.

Common Scenarios

  • CLASS PROJECTS that involve direct interaction (e.g., in person, via mail, email, web surveys, or telephone), but where the purpose is training, an educational exercise or professional development, and not research. The project is not “research” even if students ask people questions as part of learning how to conduct interviews or surveys, take histories, administer assessments, or perform “in-house” evaluations.
  • Class Projects that involve direct interaction or secondary analyses of private identifiable data and are undertaken as both an educational experience and as research (e.g., results of these activities will be presented publicly or otherwise disseminated, or the data will be stored and used by the students or others as research data).
  • CLASS PROJECTS involving secondary data analyses that are assigned and conducted as educational exercises, i) using data that are either publicly available data, de-identified or otherwise impossible to be linked to personal identities or ii) include private information and codes that link to identifiers, but the students do not have access to the identifiers.

Note: Projects involving but not limited to vulnerable population, collecting data sensitive in nature, collecting information in which participant might feel physically or psychologically threatened are not acceptable under this review category and a Full IRB application must be completed for review.