Skip to main content

Research Involving Children

Children (anyone under 18 years of age) can participate as research subjects only if the research meets certain standards, defined in the federal regulations (Subpart D of 45 CFR 46). Specifically, the research may not be greater than minimal risk unless it provides a direct benefit to the child.


Review Procedures

The review status depends on the anticipated level of risk to participants and is determined by the IRB chair.

Full Review

Research with children will usually be reviewed by the full IRB at a convened meeting. The full meeting schedule is posted on the home page.

  • Examples of projects that might fall under this category:
    • Asking children for their opinions or ideas about a topic that is not part of the standard curriculum
    • Games or tests that are used to study child development
    • Research on topics that are not directly related to teaching and learning (e.g. sensitive social topics; social, emotional, or personal characteristics of the students ).
    • Access to educational records (e.g. grades, test scores, progress reports, and disciplinary status).

Exempt Review

Research involving children may qualify for an exempt review status if it:

  • involves ONLY observation of public behavior (i.e. in a public park)
  • involves normal educational practices and curriculum

Child Safety Training

All researchers must review Smith College’s Child Safety Policy and complete the required training prior to initiating research involving children.

Campus School of Smith College

User Guide

Any researcher wishing to conduct research at the Campus School of Smith College should consult the User Guide (updated February 2019) for instructions on how to proceed.


Obtaining Approval to Conduct Classroom Research

Contact Graeham Dodd, director of curriculum design & innovation at the school.

Obtaining Approval to Conduct Scholarly Research

All research conducted at Campus School must be reviewed and approved by the school administration. Please follow the checklist below in order to have your research proposal considered for approval.

Important note regarding projects that are subject to IRB review: Approval from the IRB Office does not guarantee approval from Campus School administration. The inverse is also true: Approval from Campus School administration does not guarantee approval from the IRB Office.

Submit your IRB proposal using the Mentor IRB system. If you have a specific teacher/classroom in mind, make sure you include this in your IRB proposal.

  • The Campus School director of curriculum design & innovation will review your proposal to determine if the Campus School administration is willing to allow the study to take place. If Campus School approves your research proposal, both you and the IRB Office will be notified that your project has been approved pending IRB approval.
  • If your project is not approved by the Campus School administration, you will receive email notification from the director of curriculum design & innovation. The project will not be eligible for completion at Campus School.

After receiving approval from the Campus School, the IRB will conduct a formal review of your proposal. The IRB will provide you with a final decision regarding whether your project may be undertaken.


If your project is approved by all required parties, please follow the steps below in order to mobilize your research:

  • Complete all required child safety trainings and background checks. Campus School will provide you with guidance on the requirements.
  • Campus School must have documentation of all completed trainings and cleared background checks.

The director of curriculum design & innovation will assist you with coordinating your study. This includes connecting you with teachers, sending home and monitoring the collection of permission slips, signing out work spaces as needed, and ensuring that the only children who participate in the research are those with permission from their parents/guardians.

Obtaining Parental Permission at the Campus School

Parents of children who attend the Campus School of Smith College are given the option of signing a “blanket” consent document for their child to participate in certain types of research that involve experimentation with the standard curriculum in normal education settings.

Parent Notification for Studies Covered by the Blanket Parental Consent Form - Researchers are required to send a letter home to parents notifying them of the study that is being conducted and offering to answer questions. This letter must be sent out prior to the start of the research. This letter should state that the research has been approved by the Smith College IRB and the Campus School Administration and that it falls under the blanket parental consent document that they signed at the beginning of the school year.

Parental Consent for Studies Not Covered by the Blanket Parental Consent Form - Researchers are required to request parental consent before interacting with the children. See consent templates below.

Other Schools

You will be expected to obtain a letter of support from the appropriate administrator at the school in which you plan to recruit participants. The letter should be on official letterhead and include two main components:

  • A statement that the person(s) have reviewed the study design and any interview/survey questions or games
  • A statement that they are empowered to allow this study to take place at the school, contingent on IRB approval.

Parental Consent

Written parental/guardian permission is required for studies involving children. If the study poses more than minimal risk to the child, the IRB may require written permission from both parents/guardians.

Child Assent

Once parental/guardian permission has been obtained, the agreement or assent of the child is required. The child's assent is documented with an assent form, a child-friendly document that outlines the essential information about the research. Children who are able to read and write should participate in the consent process by using an assent form written in language especially for the child.

Written Assent (Ages 7-17)

From age 7 and up, a child's written assent is needed (in addition to parental or guardian consent). The assent form should be written in a way the minor participant can understand. The researcher should use supplementary verbal explanations as needed.

Oral Assent (Age 6 or Younger)

For participants who are 6 and younger, the researcher should obtain the child's assent to participate, but a signature is not required. The explanation to the child should contain elements of consent expressed in a way the child can understand. A conversational question/answer setting is often the most useful form of communication. With very young children, the child's nonresistant behavior may be interpreted as assent, but the researcher must use special care to discontinue the participation of any child who appears to experience undue stress from the research procedure.