ToolBox -

iSchool Capstone projects and other student work for credit MUST obtain Human Subjects approval if:


The project includes research with human subjects as defined by federal regulations:

RESEARCH is defined as a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. Publishing or presenting does not necessarily make a project generalizable. Here, ‘designed’ refers to a predetermined purpose and/or intent; ‘systematic means having a prospectively identified approach bases on a system, method, or plan; and ‘generalizable’ means the resulting data or conclusions are intended to apply beyond the individuals studied, or beyond a specific time and/or location, such as to other settings or circumstances.

A HUMAN SUBJECT is a living individual about whom an investigator conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual OR (2) identifiable private information. ‘About whom’ means the data or information is about the person. Asking individuals what they think about something is almost always about the person. ‘Identifiable’ means the identity of the subject is or may be readily ascertained by the investigator OR associated with the information. ‘Private’ refers to information about behavior that occurs in a context in which an individual can reasonably expect that no observation or recording is taking place, and information which has been provided for specific purposes by an individual and which the individual can reasonably expect will not be made public.

Student work does NOT require Human Subjects approval if:

  1. The work is ‘classroom research’: activities designed specifically for educational or teaching purposes, where data is collected from and about human subjects as part of a class exercise or assignment, including instruction on research methods, that is not intended for use outside of the classroom, OR
  2. No information about individuals is used, OR
  3. The project is not regulated research as defined above. For example, a project examining a particular organization or tool that is not designed to produce findings that can be generalized to other settings or circumstances.


  • Each student is responsible for discussing protections for human subjects and whether the activities may meet the definition of human subjects research with her/his faculty instructor PRIOR to beginning collection of data.
  • Capstone instructors are responsible for guiding students on human subjects protections, regulations, and application process in a timely fashion and for checking in with the UW Human Subjects Division if there are questions.
  • If, in the course of a project the scope changes to include human subjects research as defined above, the student and instructor are both responsible for immediately seeking human subjects approval. Retroactive human subjects approval cannot be granted.

Human Subjects Research application process, forms, and further guidance:

Questions? Contact Cortney Leach,, 206.616.2063.

If you have any questions after reading this article or if you need any help, please don't hesitate to contact the iSchool IT Help Desk.
(206) 616-3086