Sample Research Scenarios and Corresponding Levels of Review

Exempt Level Review

Scenario: A survey of staff who work with battered women about their observations of the way in which these women parent their children while at the shelter.  
Why this is exempt:  The population has low vulnerability (working professionals), low risk questions, and a survey method that ensures the anonymity of the participants. 

Scenario: A secondary data analysis of records from a public housing agency to determine how many clients had positive experiences with the program.  The records have been purged of all identifying data by agency officials before coming to the researcher.
Why this is exempt:  The data has no identifying information, so the subjects are anonymous.  The research poses no risk to the population, since they are not being contacted in any way by the researcher.  There is no coercion to participate in the research, since the data is being pulled from records gathers as part of the routine data collection of the housing agency.

Expedited Level Review

Scenario: Interviews of social workers who work with battered women about how they emotionally deal with traumatic stories of battered women and their children.  The interviews are audio recorded, and the subjects are drawn from a sample population of local social workers that work with domestic abuse victims.
Why this is expedited: Though this is similar to the first scenario above, the questions asked may cause some emotional distress as the subjects recall stories of their clients; thus, there is invasion of privacy and more risk to the subject.  Also, recording interviews automatically placed the research in the expedited review category, since it is more difficult to keep the identity of a subject confidential when they are recorded.

Scenario: A focus group of five middle-aged men is interviewed to determine their reactions to proposed changes in the national speed limit.  The researcher personally asks all the questions, and is videotaping the interview.
Why is this expedited: Since all of the subjects are able to see each other and hear each other’s reactions, they are no longer anonymous (at least to the other subjects).  This, as well as the video recording of their responses to questions, places this study in the expedited review category.

Full Board Review

Scenario: Interviewing battered women about the strategies they used to protect their children from their abuser while in the relationship.  The interviews are audio recorded.
Why this is full board:  The target population (battered women) is at least moderately vulnerable, and the questions asked in the interview are high risk – they may cause a lot of emotional distress.  Also, as stated above, audio recording introduces more difficulties in keeping the identity of the subject confidential.

Scenario: An elementary school teacher wants to measure the effects of a new science curriculum geared towards environmental justice on her students.  She plans to videotape students during lessons, which will include art projects and classroom discussions.
Why is this full board: Research with children, with certain exceptions (see question 10d on the exempt level appendix), will always need a full board review.  In addition, since the researcher is studying her own students, the potential for coercion exists; the researcher may intentionally or unintentionally influence her students.  Videotaping the lessons also increases the difficulty of keeping the identity of the students confidential.