COVID-19: Guidance for Students Conducting Research

In this unusual time of a SARS CoV-2 (COVID-19) global pandemic, of foremost importance to Monmouth College and the Monmouth College Institutional  Review Board (IRB) is the health and safety of both researchers and those individuals who volunteer as participants in their projects.

Research should not harm participants, nor place them at unnecessarily increased risk of harm. Where there is the possibility that participants could be harmed or put in a position of discomfort, there must be strong justifications for this.

The Monmouth College IRB, in accordance with federal regulations governing human subjects research and the current Monmouth College COVID-19 protocols, offers below guidance and requirements for researchers conducting in-person data collection involving human participants during the fall 2020/spring 2021 academic year. As the pandemic and responses to it evolve, this page will be updated. (Feb. 8, 2021: currently under revision)


  • Research projects involving human subjects should be designed to be carried out remotely whenever possible.
  • In-person data collection or observation field research involving human subjects should be carried out only if you feel you are able to do so in a safe manner for both researcher and participants and in strict accordance with Monmouth College COVID-19 policies. Investigators should provide, in their project description document, a brief but compelling justification as to why they must complete any research in-person as opposed to on a virtual platform like Zoom.
  • Researchers planning to engage in in-person data collection of any kind involving human participants are required to develop a safety plan (for students, in consultation with your faculty project advisor). You are asked to include the plan in your project description document.

Typically, this plan would include:

    • Using a space with adequate ventilation.
    • Consistent use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (for example, masks and gloves).
    • Frequent hand sanitation through thorough handwashing or use of hand sanitizers when soap and water are not immediately available.
    • Regular disinfection of the workspace (for example, field site, vehicles, recording equipment, common areas, and frequently touched surfaces.
    • Maintaining safe social distancing at all times.
  • Researchers should include, in their informed consent for in-person data collection, the risks associated with transmission of COVID-19. Below is a sample you may include in your consent:

The respiratory nature of transmission of SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) increases the risk of exposure to the virus during in-person interactions with others, compared to electronically facilitated (remote) interaction. As such, I understand that the researcher will employ Covid-19 mitigation measures, and I am free to ask any questions related to precautions in place to reduce my risk of exposure, as well as the risk to others involved in this study. I may discontinue participation at any time for Covid-19 related concerns, as I may for other reasons, spoken or unspoken, without penalty. Should the researcher or participant test positive for COVID-19, contact tracing would be employed by local health authorities. Consequently, in those cases, confidentiality of participation in the study may not be able to be maintained. This relates only to participation in the study and is not a breach of confidentiality of the content of the data collection.

  • For in-person data collection not taking place in a private home, student researchers must obtain verbal permission from the authority at the location where the data collection is to take place, and provide this person’s name, title, and contact information in the project description document.
  • We recommend, but do not require, a COVID-19 test for those conducting in-person research (do NOT submit test results to the IRB – your test results are confidential), with the understanding that a negative COVID-19 test does not substitute for other safety protocols.