Statement on Human Subjects Research in the Writing Program

January 23, 2019


The Writing Program and SAGES have articulated the following guidelines to ensure that faculty who work in the Writing Program, including SAGES seminars, comply with ethical standards when they or their students engage in research that involves the study of living human beings or their identifiable private information.

As part of a research-intensive university, the Writing Program encourages both faculty- and student-led research as part of the work of writing instruction. Our classrooms offer rich opportunities to study instructional methods and activities, student writing, and students’ behaviors as writers. They also offer opportunities for students to learn fundamental research skills and to obtain a knowledge of writing (and other fields) that can be obtained only through direct participation in research activity.

The Writing Program is committed to using ethical practices when doing research involving human subjects. Whether conducting research about students (including their writing), or assigning human subjects research projects to students, faculty should take the following steps before starting.

  • Consult the departmental chair appropriate to the disciplinary field of the project (or, in the case of research in writing studies and composition, the Director of Composition).
  • Contact CWRU’s Office of Research & Technology Management to determine whether a project requires approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Not every research project or classroom activity involving human participants meets the federal definition of human subjects research. In most cases, a determination can be made over the phone. Because some projects may require IRB review, it is advisable to begin this process as early as possible.
  • Contact CWRU’s Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer in the Office of General Counsel to determine whether a project is compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Not every research project or classroom activity involving human participants and their associated information is subject to privacy regulations. However, because some projects may involve student education records subject to FERPA protection, it is advisable to consult the Office of General Counsel before beginning any research.
  • Ensure that everyone involved in conducting the research is appropriately trained and, if required by the IRB, certified. To find out more about training opportunities and certification requirements, contact CWRU’s Office of Research & Technology Management.

Beyond these guidelines, the Writing Program endorses the following scholarly resources for best practices for the responsible conduct of research.