Students as Participants

Students are a frequently accessed population in the social and behavioral sciences research; some students are studied directly in education-focused research and other students, particularly university students, are encouraged to participate in studies as part of their educational experience. The main issue in using students in a study is your relationship with the students (i.e. if you are the students' instructor) and if that relationship will make students feel direct or indirect pressure to participate in the study, inhibiting their ability to participate voluntarily. As a teacher, you hold a position of authority over the students through your grading power and in some cases, the ability to affect a student’s career.  Because of this position, it is important that you recruit your participants and collect your data in a way that encourages voluntary participation.  It is also important that you maintain the students’ privacy and take precautions to keep their information confidential. 

The Research in an Educational Setting section provides a more complete discussion of this topic. When you are constructing a study where you plan to collect data from your students, you need to carefully consider recruitment, consent, and data collection. In general, the best way to remove concern about coercion is to either engage students and collect data after the class is complete and grades are issued, or collect data anonymously so that the instructor does not know which students participated. The Board will want justification as to why it is necessary to include your students in your student, versus another population in which you have less influence.

Please note that if you are recruiting from the student body in general or from a participant pool, it is possible and even likely that one of your own students will be eligible to participate.  In this situation, the Board does not consider this to be direct recruiting of your own students, so some of the potential for direct coercion is reduced. However, because the students are required to participate in research as part of their graduation requirement, an element of coercion still exists. For more information about accessing participants in a participant pool, please see Participant Pools.