Education MA Culminating Experience

Special Focus: Guidelines for Projects and Curriculum Writing Activities

Master’s students in the College of Education are required to produce a thesis or a project. This guideline aims to clarify if and when activities involved in either type of culminating graduate experience require IRB review. Ask the following three questions of your project to determine if it requires IRB review:

A. Does my project use systematic investigation? Systematic investigation generally involves: identifying a research question based on understanding previous research, using a research methodology (e.g., interviews, surveys, observations) to produce data which will then be analyzed and discussed in terms of theory and previous literature written about your topic.
B. Does that systematic investigation involve interacting with human participants (e.g., interviews, observations) or data that was generated from humans (e.g., test scores)?

C. Will my work be published, presented, or written for an audience besides my committee (e.g., the abstract or entire text published for the library, presented at a conference, written up for a journal manuscript, or shared with a broader education community)?

If you have answered “yes” to all three questions, you are engaged in human subject research, which requires IRB review. Visit the CSUSM IRB website and read through which type of review you will need. If you are conducting your project’s research in a classroom setting, please consult the CSUSM IRB guideline entitled, “Request for Exemption Guidelines: Educational Setting.”

If you have answered “no” to any of the questions above, you do not require an IRB review.


The following activities alone do not require an IRB review; however, the use or presentation of the process and/or data collected in your thesis or project may cause the activity to require review.

A. Needs analysis: Identifies and attempts to solve specific problems. Asks specific questions generated from specific site. May or may not require literature reviews, discussion of methods, and theory. Used for specific groups, organizations, and institutions. The end product does not include a summary of the analysis but rather generates a solution or product.

B. Curriculum writing and program evaluation: Creating curriculum for regular classroom practices. Classroom students involved. May involve talking with and collecting samples from human participants. No required reflection on or writing of literature reviews, discussion of methods, and theory.

C. Developing manuals using existing materials and resources: May or may not involve talking or consulting with others. No required reflection on or writing of literature reviews, discussion of methods, and theory.

D. Gathering examples of student work for school publication: Involves collection and even discussion with students about their work. Information is primarily for school site only.

E. National Board Certification Portfolios

Note: Even though IRB review is not required for these types of activities, attention to ethics and human rights is essential. We recommend that you obtain release to use student material and/or provide an information sheet to students and parents about the activity. A sample information sheet can be found on the CSUSM IRB website.

If you are unsure about the potential review process for any project, contact the IRB at irb@csusm.edu.