Guidelines

What is considered not to be under IRB's purview

Scholarly and journalistic activities (e.g., oral history, journalism, biography, literary criticism, legal research, and historical scholarship), including the collection and use of information, that focus directly on the specific individuals about whom the information is collected, are not considered to come under IRB's purview. This is because the information collected from specific individuals are not extended to draw generalizations about other individuals or groups. For example, a journalist or a biographer might collect and present factual information to support their presentation of the character of an individual. Such fields of inquiry generally have their own codes of ethics. Other areas include oral history, journalism, biography, historical scholarship, literary criticism and legal case research.

In contrast, if the activity involves collecting and using information about individuals for the purpose of drawing generalizations about such individuals or a population of which they are members, then these would come under IRB's purview. This would include research areas in anthropology or sociology, where methods such as participant observation and ethnographic studies are used, in which investigators gather information from individuals in order to understand the beliefs, customs, and practices, not only of those individuals, but also of the community or group to which they belong to. The purpose and design of such studies or activities is to reveal something about the community or group – that is, to develop generalizable knowledge.