Current Students

Research with Human Subjects

Information for Researchers

Faculty and students in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) who plan to use human subjects in their research (e.g., interviews) and disseminate their results beyond classroom use, will generally require approval from the university's institutional review board (IRB) through the duration of the research activity. Please refer to the UW Human Subjects website for information that will help in determining whether your research activities require IRB review. If you do need IRB review, you will be required to fill out a form ("protocol") in Word, upload to a database ("Zipline SmartForms"), and will usually be required to assign your supervising faculty as ancillary reviewer ("Study Roles Addendum"). All needed reviews and sign-offs take place within the Zipline database.

You may find it helpful to ask the faculty you are working with to provide you with examples of forms they have used in earlier studies and to ask questions of coordinators at the Human Subjects Division, e.g., Galen Basse (

If your study requires IRB approval, you may NOT begin to conduct of the human subjects research until you have received that approval.

Information for Research Participants

Researchers occasionally ask students* in HCDE classes to participate in user-centered design experiments. You may be asked, for example, to perform a task on a computer or to read text passages and take a reading comprehension test. You will be asked to expend no more than two hours of your time in any one quarter (one of these hours might occur during class time).

*If you are under 18, Federal and University regulations require parental permission before you can participate in any aspect of the subject pool. Please ask experimenters for more information.*

Not all sections of all HCDE courses will have the opportunity to participate in these experiments every quarter. If, however, your class is chosen, your participation in some form may be part of your course requirements. You may fulfill the course requirement in several different ways.

  1. You may participate by performing the exercise requested by the experimenter.
  2. You may participate by showing up at the appointed time, listening to the experimenter present the goals of the study, and examining the materials. You may then decide not to complete the task.
  3. If your class section is chosen to participate and if you do not wish to participate in a research setting, you may fulfill the course requirement for participation by writing a 2-page paper on a topic suggested by your instructor. This paper should be submitted to your class instructor before the final day of classes for the given quarter. The paper will not be graded.

We have found HCDE experiments to be rewarding experiences for both participants and the experimenters. However, you are free to withdraw from an experiment at any time. If you have complaints about the procedures, please write a description of the complaint and the name of the experiment or researcher and HCDE give it to the secretary, who will forward it to the TC Human Subjects Review Committee (TC-HSRC).

When you participate in an experiment, you should be given a consent form to sign. (With some online experiments, consent forms are part of the online instructions and the participant gives consent by completing the study versus closing the browser and withdrawing from the experiment.) With in-person experiments, if the experimenter does not give you a consent form, do not participate in the study. Additionally, some experiments may use a sign-up form, which may be passed around in class and then posted outside the experimenter's office. You can sign up, cancel, or re-schedule on this form. If the experiment is not conducted in class, you should go to the experiment location 5–10 minutes before the experiment. Please wait 10 minutes past the assigned time for the experimenter to show-up; if he or she does not show up, you may leave and still receive credit for participation.