Policies on Research with Human Subjects
All research conducted at UTPA that involves the use of human subjects must be reviewed and approved by the University's Institutional Review Board for the Protection of the Human Subjects (IRB). IRB approval must be obtained before any activity that meets the definition of “human subjects research” is carried out, regardless of whether the researcher is a faculty member or student.
Detailed information about this process, including forms and training requirements, can be found on the UTPA IRB website.
UTPA students are frequently recruited from undergraduate classes to participate in psychology research. Research participation is always voluntary. If your professor is offering extra credit for research participation, he/she should always offer some alternative non-research method for obtaining the same extra credit. Further information about your rights as a research subject are provided below.
UTPA Subjects' Rights – Guidance for Students
UTPA students are often asked to participate as subjects in research. While most of the research at UTPA is “social-behavioral” (rather than biomedical) and generally poses very little physical or psychological risk to subjects, all human subjects research must follow established regulations and institutional policies to ensure that subjects are treated ethically and that any risks are minimized.
Investigators are responsible for knowing and following university policies. Certain types of research must be reviewed and approved by an ethics committee called the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Other types of research can be approved by just one member of the committee.
As a research subject, you always have certain rights and it is important that you are aware of these rights:
- You should never feel coerced into participation. If a professor or researcher invites you to participate in his/her research, you should not feel pressured to participate. Sometimes a professor or researcher will offer extra credit for research participation. If research extra credit is offered, you should also be provided with an alternative way of earning the extra credit that does not involve your participation as a research subject. The alternative should be fair – it should take about the same amount of time and effort as the research participation. Research participation should never be required as part of a course.
- Even if you agree to participate in a study, you always have the right to change your mind. Just because you started a procedure, don't feel that you cannot then stop your participation. If you choose to, you can stop right in the middle of a study. However, please try to give an experimenter advance warning if you decide not to show up for an appointment so that he/she can make other arrangements.
- You have the right to know what will happen if you choose to participate in an experiment. The researcher should provide you with sufficient information to allow you to make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to take part in the study; this is called informed consent. Informed consent is generally handled by providing subjects with an informed consent form or by verbally describing the process to subjects before the study. Certain types of research require subjects to sign the consent form to indicate that they have been informed about the study procedures, but other types of research do not require signed consent (e.g., certain types of survey and interview studies).
- You have the right to ask questions about the research before you agree to participate. Occasionally, the researcher will not be able to answer the questions because doing so might affect the research itself, but you can then decide whether or not you want to participate.
- While rare, some studies cannot be conducted if subjects are fully informed about the purpose of the study ahead of time. In these studies, information may be withheld from the subjects or subject might be purposefully misled about the purposes of the study. This sort of deception must be reviewed by the IRB and is only approved if certain criteria are met. In most cases, subjects will later be debriefed about the study and told about the deception and the reason for its use.
- The researcher should tell you whether or not your responses/data will be anonymous (recorded without your name or links to your individual identity). If not anonymous, the researcher should inform you about the extent to which your individually identifiable responses will be confidential (not shared with others). For example, some researchers may want to use subject quotes in their presentations or publications, but might replace your actual name with a made up name (pseudonym).
- It is important to note certain limitations to confidentiality: researchers are required by law to report specific illegal behaviors (such as child or elder abuse) and, although rare, a researcher might have his/her data subpoenaed for a legal case.
Activities not reviewed by the IRB:
Certain activities are not generally reviewed by the IRB, including surveys conducted for the purposes of local program development or improvement (e.g., a survey of graduating seniors’ satisfaction with the program, conducted by the department) and activities that are conducted for purely pedagogical purposes (e.g., students in a research design class who collect data as part of a class assignment, but the data will only be used as a learning activity).
Your right to more information or to file a complaint:
If, at any time, you have questions about your rights or feel that a researcher has violated your rights, please contact the IRB. You can contact the IRB via
Tel: (956) 665-2889
Anonymous survey: www.utpa.edu/IRBFeedback
Typical elements of an informed consent document:
- Title of research study
- Brief description about the nature of the study.
- Information about the study procedures.
- Time required for participation.
- Nature of data recorded (anonymity or confidentiality statement).
- Statement that participation is voluntary and/or that subject can skip any questions.
- Name & contact information of researcher.
- Contact information for IRB.
Other elements frequently seen in a consent document:
- Risks associated with participation
- Benefits associated with participation
- Payment/compensation for participation
- Statement regarding the use of quotes in publications or presentations
- What will be done in the event of an adverse reaction
- Information about storage of audio/video tapes from research interview.
- A signature line that indicates you have read and understood the consent form.