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IRB Guidelines for Research Using Assessment Data

Faculty and staff at CSUSM conduct assessment research. Not all assessment research needs to go through the IRB. This guideline is meant to help researchers decide whether they need an IRB review.

  1.  If the data will only be collected for program assessment, needs assessment or quality control AND the data will be presented (orally or in written form) in terms of assessment data: no IRB is required.
  2.  If the researchers collect assessment data for a research project that will develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge (e.g., theory building, building upon other’s work in the field): IRB is required. The type of IRB review should be determined by the researcher; please use the resources at the CSUSM IRB site.
  3.  If researchers collect assessment data (as in Scenario 1) and then later decide that they want to analyze this data to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge: IRB is required. The type of IRB review should be determined by the researcher.

If you are involved in assessment data that does not apply to any of the scenarios listed above, please contact the IRB  (, 750-4029) to discuss your particular assessment project.   For other issues regarding assessment research, please contact Institutional Planning and Analysis


Definition of Research

For the purposes of the CSUSM IRB policy, Research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. See Definition of Research Guideline.

Definition of Assessment: Program Evaluation, Needs Assessment and Quality Control

Studies conducted for the purposes of program assessment, needs assessment, or quality control in which findings are solely intended for use in internal program planning and development and are not designed to contribute to generalized knowledge are not subject to IRB review.

Note: The key difference between research and assessment is that in research, the data are collected to contribute to generalizable knowledge, which may be disseminated through a scholarly paper, conference presentation or poster, or other academic outlets. Assessment data may be presented at conferences (e.g., WASC), in written form (e.g., reports), and presentations (e.g., Chancellor’s Office) without IRB approval if data are presented as assessment data, not research.