Recruiting Students as Research Participants

General Guidelines

The use of human subjects in research is permitted so long as the researcher has obtained prior approval to conduct the study from the School’s Institutional Review Board and the researcher adheres to these Guidelines set forth herein.  For these purposes, researchers include faculty who conduct research, and student researchers and their advisors.

Qualifications for Recruiting Students as Human Subjects

In the instance where recruitment of students to participate as human subjects in a study utilizes the School’s communications systems, the Associate Dean for Research must approve the protocol recruiting of students.  Depending on the subject matter, the Associate Dean may consult with other School administrators to assess whether use of the School’s communications systems is appropriate.

Before recruiting students, the researcher must provide proof of having completed two courses offered by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative, as follows: (1) Training in Responsible Conduct of Research; and (2) Protection of Human Subjects.

You can visit the CITI Program website by clicking here.

Ethical Considerations in Recruiting Students

If the subject matter of the research covers a sensitive topic, sufficient and appropriate resources and services must be in place before subject recruitment.

The informed consent process must disclose that participation is voluntary, and that students are free to withdraw at any time.  It must be apparent that a willingness to participate will NOT influence job or academic performance evaluation. 

Please refer to the CUNY HRPP Policy: Consent Process and Documentation Guidelines, found here.

Researchers should not use their own students as participants when another group of equally suited participants is reasonably accessible.  Real coercion is rare in research, but the perception of coercion can be just as problematic in obtaining voluntary informed consent.

To avoid undue influence, extra credit may not be given to those students participating in research as human subjects unless the research is occurring as part of a specific course; the extra credit offered is reasonable, and the faculty researcher provides comparable alternatives for those students who choose not to participate in the research.

To ensure the protection of the rights and welfare of participants, students must rigorously maintain privacy protections consistent with applicable federal and state laws.

Potential subjects must come from a broad base of individuals meeting the eligibility criteria, rather than by personal solicitation of specific students.

Other students should not have access to the data, particularly if the data include identifying information, and more so if the data includes any sensitive information.


Research – a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. 

Code of Federal Regulations Title 45 Part 46 Subpart A Section 46.102

Human subject – a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information. 

Code of Federal Regulations Title 45 Part 46 Subpart A Section 46.102 available here

Student – an individual who has registered within any constituent unit of CUNY, including the School, regardless of whether s/he is enrolled in courses or on authorized leave. 

Minimal risk – the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests.

Code of Federal Regulations Title 45 Part 46 Subpart A Section 46.102

Academic supervision – the process by which an instructor evaluates the performance of a student through grades, extra credit, recommendations, supervision of student research, or other standardized feedback.


A researcher may not directly solicit participation in a research project from any student of the School whom the researcher teaches or academically supervises, regardless of the level of risk.  This prohibition applies even if the student has previously indicated a willingness to be contacted about the possibility of participating in research.

In addition to the use of School communication systems, researchers may also use indirect methods, such as posting of IRB-approved flyers and/or the placement of IRB-approved advertisements, to recruit students.  Approval of the Associate Dean for Research is not required to use these indirect methods.

Participation Incentives

The use of monetary incentives for soliciting student participation in research is permissible but must be guided by the same considerations and constraints as those applicable to all human subjects.

The use of extra credit as an incentive for student research participation may be acceptable if such participation offers educational benefits to the students in question, and the researcher offers students non-research alternatives by which they may earn an equivalent amount of extra credit. Restrictions on the use of extra credit as an incentive to participation are at the discretion of the IRB.

Minimal Risk Research

Enrollment in research activities that have been designated “minimal risk” by a CUNY IRB is open to all students.  While researcher- instructors may not directly recruit their own students, they may enroll their students as research participants should the students respond to non-directed recruitment methods.


Whenever the protocol includes students participate in research, regardless of the level of risk, the investigators must provide the CUNY IRB with specific plans for ensuring the privacy of the students. These plans must take into account and adequately address particular concerns raised by the context.

A link to the CUNY Research Participant Consent Form template may be found here.