The APUS Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews and approves all research involving human subjects to ensure that it is conducted in accordance with all federal, institutional, and ethical guidelines. If the research involves APUS faculty, staff, and/or students, this research may also need approval of the Internal Research Review Board (IRRB).

All human subject research under the aegis of APUS, regardless of funding source, must be reviewed and approved by the IRB before research can begin.

Research reviewed by the APUS IRB must meet these criteria:

  • The research is sponsored by APUS.
  • The research is conducted or directed by any employee or trainee of the university in connection with his or her APUS responsibilities.
  • The research involves access to any property or facility of APUS.
  • The research involves APUS faculty, staff, and/or students. This research may also need approval of the Internal Research Review Board (IRRB).

How is a Human Subject Defined?

A human subject is defined by federal regulations as “a living individual about whom an investigator conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information” (45 CFR 46.102(f)).

Human subjects may participate in a study different ways:

  • They may be actively involved in the research process, such as responding to surveys or being interviewed.
  • Data about human subjects may be gathered from other sources, such as public records, existing datasets, medical records, or other sources.

Research reviewed by the IRB

  • Involves living individuals about whom "an investigator conducting research obtains data through intervention or interaction with the individual."
  • Contains "identifiable private information" (Title 45 CFR, Part 46.102.f).
  • Includes secondary analysis of existing datasets where participants are individually identifiable.

IRB Review Types

Review types are determined by the Institutional Review Board.


A research activity may be declared exempt if it is considered low-risk and the only involvement of human subjects will be in the categories outlined in federal law 45 CFR 46.101(b). Briefly described, these categories are:

  1. Research conducted in established or commonly accepted educational settings, involving normal educational practices.
  2. Research using anonymous or no-risk tests, surveys, interviews, or observations. (Note that anonymous is not the same as confidential. You can learn more about this topic in your CITI training.)
  3. Most research involving public officials.
  4. Research involving the collection or study of existing data if it is publicly available or if subjects cannot be identified.
  5. Research examining public benefit or service programs.
  6. Taste and food quality evaluation and consumer acceptance studies.


A research design plan may qualify for expedited review if it is judged to involve only minimal risk, does not include intentional deception, does not employ sensitive populations or topics, and includes appropriate informed consent procedures. The most common types of studies considered for expedited review include the following:

  1. Collection of data from voice, video, digital, or image recordings made for research purposes.
  2. Research on individual or group characteristics or behavior (including, but not limited to, research on perception, cognition, motivation, identity, language, communication, cultural beliefs or practices, and social behavior), or research employing survey, interview, oral history, focus group, program evaluation, human factors evaluation, or quality assurance methodologies. (Note: some of this research may be considered exempt according to criteria above.)
  3. The collection of physical data through non-invasive procedures such as height and weight; MRI, ECG, ultrasound; moderate exercise; collection of blood samples by heel stick or finger stick. See a full list of procedures at 45 CFR 46.110.

Full Board

Research that is judged to involve more than minimal risk, or involves protected populations such as children, prisoners, or disabled individuals, must undergo a full board review. Individuals intending to conduct research that requires a full board review should allow ample time to complete the review process as this review type may take longer than the prior review processes. The following categories of research require full IRB approval:

  1. Projects for which the level of risk is determined by the IRB Chair to be greater than minimal.
  2. Projects that involve the intentional deception of subjects, such that misleading or untruthful information will be provided to participants.
  3. Projects that involve sensitive or protected populations (such as children or cognitively disabled individuals).
  4. Projects that plan to use procedures that are personally intrusive, stressful, or potentially traumatic (stress can be physical, psychological, social, financial, or legal).

On your application, you should choose the type of review you believe is most appropriate for your project. The IRB Chair, with consultation from board members, can then revise your choice if necessary.

Not Human Subjects Research

According to federal guidelines, oral history is not required to undergo IRB review if it meets the ethical guidelines of the Oral History Association, including their ethical requirement to gain informed consent prior to conducting an interview, and a signed legal release at the conclusion of the interview. These issues are codified in the Oral History Association's Principles and Standards and Evaluation Guidelines.

IRB Resources