For Participants

At the NC State IRB, we provide information and guidance to help people navigate through the process of ethical research with humans. Research participants across decades in the U.S. have helped in the discovery of groundbreaking medical treatments, important cultural phenomena, and the best evidence-based professional practices in many fields.

Being a participant in any research study is always strictly voluntary and much appreciated by researchers and the world. While research is important, our job as the NC State IRB office is to ensure that your rights and well-being are protected in the research process.

What is research?

A research study is a very careful way of looking at something and collecting data in order to answer a specific question aiming to inform or solve a problem. Research can be done with or without the involvement of humans. Research with living humans at NC State is supervised by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) office and research with vertebrate animals that aren’t humans at NC State is supervised by the IACUC.

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What will I do if I participate in research?

It depends on what the research study is trying to learn. Some research studies will ask you questions, have you do an activity, or study your body or its reactions. You will always be told what you will be doing in the research study and why before you participate in the research. You can either agree to do those activities by participating in the research or decline to do those activities and not participate in the research. You always have the right to say “no” to participating in any research. Whatever decision you make will not affect your access to the resources or benefits that you would normally have.

Before any research with humans begins, the NC State IRB reviews all research plans to ensure that the proposed research is safe, legal and ethical. If during the research process, you ever feel unsafe or treated in an illegal or unethical manner, please contact NC State IRB Director Jennie Ofstein at or 919.515.8754; the IRB Director takes these feelings very seriously.

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Is participating in research a good fit for me?

Some people enjoy participating in research because they enjoy the research activity, learn something new about themselves or others, and like helping others. Some people dislike participating in research because the research process takes time, may ask personal questions, or has you do something new or different than what you would normally do. Both perspectives and opinions are valid. Our goal is that you have the knowledge you need to make the best choice for you regarding participating or not participating in research.

Before you decide to volunteer to take part in a research study, you need to know as much as possible about the research study. If there are any issues that concern you, be sure to ask questions. You might want to write your questions down.

Remember, if you do not understand the answer to one of your questions, ask the question again and ask the person to explain the answer in a way you can understand it. If you forget the answer to the questions during the study, just ask them again.

The following are a list of sample questions you may have for a researcher. Not every question will apply to every study:

  • Who is doing the study and what questions might it answer?
  • Who reviewed or approved this study to be done?
  • What could happen to my body, emotional health, reputation or environment if I take part in this study?
  • What tests or procedures will I experience during the study?
  • How long will this study last, and how much time will I spend as a participant in the study?
  • If I decide to participate, how will my participation affect my daily life?
  • Will I be charged anything or paid anything to be in this study?
  • Can I get the same information, education or treatment without being in the study?
  • Who will be told that I am taking part in this study, and what information will they receive about me?
  • What happens to any specimens (e.g., blood, body tissues, urine) or information (e.g., thoughts feelings, opinions, attitude) that I give as a part of this study?
  • Will my information or specimens be given to any other researchers, and will my name be associated with it?
  • What happens after the study ends?
  • Will I be told the results of the study?
  • How do I stop participating in the study if I change my mind?
  • What other options do I have if I decide not to take part in this study?
  • Whom do I contact for questions and information about the study?
  • Whom do I contact for questions about my rights as a participant?

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What if I want to stop participating in research?

Before you start participating in research, you should be told how you can stop. How you can stop depends on the methods employed by the researcher, but here are a few examples:

  • To stop your participation in online surveys, close the internet browser you are using.
  • For in-person surveys and activities, leave the room or building you are in or tell the researcher you want to stop.
  • If after finishing the online or in-person activities, you do not want the researcher to use the information they collected about you, contact the researcher and tell them. Their name, email and phone number will be listed on the informed consent document or screen page. Removing your data from a data set is possible in most cases — but not always.
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What if I have a concern or complaint about the research I participated in?

If you want to talk with someone about the research process and activities, contact the researcher; if the researcher is an NC State student, contact the faculty point of contact. Both of these individuals are listed on the informed consent document that you will be given prior to participating in research.

To report an issue or problem with the research or a researcher, please contact NC State IRB Director Jennie Ofstein at or 919.515.8754, or fill out the confidential form below.

Participant Concern and Complaint Form
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