IRB Approval for Conducting Higher Education Research

Higher education research is generally considered exempt under IRB regulations. UCI’s IRB office has announced that education research that qualifies as exempt can be self-determined. The official notification can be found here. What this means is that, rather than filling out the exempt narrative form and submitting it and other paperwork to the IRB for their approval, a researcher conducting an exempt study can complete the relevant paperwork (below) and perform their study without pre-review by the IRB.


Exempt education research is defined as:

Research conducted in established or commonly accepted educational settings [that] specifically involves normal educational practices that are NOT likely to adversely impact students’ opportunity to learn required educational content or the assessment of educators who provide instruction. This includes most research on regular and special education instructional strategies and research on the effectiveness of or the comparison among instructional techniques, curricula, or classroom management methods. (source: IRB)


Self-determination can occur if the work does not involve:

  • Children
  • Adults (age 18 or older) who may not be legally/mentally/cognitively competent to consent
  • Prisoners
  • American Indian/Alaska Native tribes
  • Non-UCI personnel engaged in research: a) intervening or interacting with the participants and/or b) having access to participant identifiable private information for research purposes.
  • Use of the UCI Social Science Human Subject Lab (SONA).
  • International Research
  • A study team member with a Disclosable Financial Interest.

(source: IRB)


Below is guidance to complete the IRB process for education research.

  1. Review the following page to confirm that your work is exempt. It will generally fall within Exempt Categories one and two.
  2. Complete the CITI Human Subjects tutorial.
    – This site will also be able to tell you have completed this within the past 5 years (look for: “(Social/Behavioral) CITI Human Subject Research”).
  3. Complete the FERPA tutorial regarding protection of student records.
    – This tutorial is in the UC Learning Center – log in here: and search for “FERPA” to find the tutorial. It should take 10-15 min to complete.
  4. Create the appropriate IRB documents in Kuali Research Protocols. A step by step guide for completing the KR narrative for exempt education research purposes can be found here.
  5. Create a Study Information Sheet that you share with your students (or any subjects you will be interacting with in this research). A template study information sheet can be found here.

If you have any additional questions, please contact Kameryn Denaro (