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TRIO McNair Undergraduate Research Guide: Ethics of Research

Ethics of Research

Research has been conducted throughout history, often with the best intentions in mind, but not always without a harmful impact to those being studied. Throughout the 21st Century some of the greatest minds from around the world have met to grapple with the ethics of research and continue to consistently meet to review the ethical considerations that guide the research enterprise. In 1979, the Belmont Report was issued with guiding principals for ethics in research. The Belmont Report outlines three core fundamental principles for the protection of human subjects of research: Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice

As a TRIO McNair Scholar you will become certified to conduct ethical research under the guide of your mentor and through the CITI Training program. You will be guided through the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process where your research proposal will be reviewed by members of the Institutional Review Board to verify that your research meets the guidelines put in place by the Belmont Report. Throughout your time in the program you will learn about the historical context of ethics in research, the Belmont Report, and many additional aspects of ethical data collection, storage, analysis, and reporting of data.  

Institutional Review Board (IRB)


The purpose of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) is to safeguard the welfare and protect the rights of individuals who participate as subjects in research sponsored by this institution. The IRB reviews all research protocols for any UW-Superior project involving human subjects. Research involving human subjects can be conducted only after it is approved by the IRB. 

Do I need IRB Approval? 

If your study involves research with human subjects, you will likely need to gain approval from the Institutional Review Board prior to conducting your research. For further guidance and to determine what level of review your research project requires complete the IRB Decision Tree Survey. The questions within this survey will help to determine the level of review required for your research project and outline the forms that must be submitted to the IRB for review. 

If the survey determines that your project is exempt from IRB oversight, you and all other members of your team must 1) complete the CTI training for researchers and 2) submit the Declaration of Exempt Status form. This exempt status generally applies to studies that are designed to test the effectiveness of instruction; include simple, anonymous surveys; or are conducted by observing public behavior. 

How to submit for IRB Approval 

  1. All student research projects must be submitted by a faculty/staff advisor. Research projects submitted directly by students will not be reviewed by the IRB. 

  1. Prior to submitting a research project for review by the IRB, all student researchers and faculty/staff advisors must complete the required training course through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). The IRB will not review a submission until all members of the research team, including the faculty/staff advisor, complete this training. CITI completion reports are required to be submitted as part of the IRB submission. 

  1. Submit the appropriate forms (as outlined through the Determining Appropriate Level of IRB Review survey) and any requirements to the IRB for review. All forms and instructions can be found here

  1. The IRB will review your submission and either issue a formal approval letter for your research or communicate with you regarding any modifications required in order to receive approval. 

  1. You cannot begin any research involving human subjects until approval is received from the IRB.