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Journalism & Oral History Guidelines

Journalism Guidelines

Most activities considered journalism—i.e., investigations and interviews that focus on the collection, verification, reporting and analysis of information or facts on current or past events, trends or newsworthy issues—do not require IRB review. For the purposes of the IRB, “research” refers to “systematic investigation[s] designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge.” While journalists may engage in a “systematic” investigation, the end result of their interviews is simply reported (or quoted) and synthesis or interpretation of what was said is not offered and no attempt is made to generalize. This differs from research that attempts to synthesize information in order to apply the newfound knowledge to others or for the benefit of others. When journalists conduct activities normally considered scientific research intended to produce generalizable knowledge (e.g., systematic research, surveys, and/or interviews that are intended to test theories or develop models), some of these activities may be subject to IRB review. In such cases the researcher should consult with the IRB. Marlboro expects all journalistic projects to be conducted only after training in journalistic methods, and in accord with the Code of Ethics established by The Society of Professional Journalists.

Oral History Guidelines

The Marlboro College IRB recognizes two basic types of Oral History projects. The purposes for which the information will be gathered, and the approach to conducting interviews, are key to determining whether an oral history project may be subject to IRB regulations. Whether your project is determined to be exempt or not, Marlboro College believes that ethical principles should govern all of educational and research activities.

Type 1 (Idiographic): Oral history information gathering activities, such as open ended interviews, that onlydocument a specific historical event or the experiences of individuals, without intent to draw conclusions or generalize findings, will be considered Type 1. This type of Oral History project WOULD NOT constitute “research.” Marlboro College’s IRB has determined that these projects may be “EXEMPT” from IRB regulation; however, the treatment of participants in oral history projects must conform to the standards of the Oral History Association.

Type 2: (Nomothetic): Systematic investigations involving a research plan which incorporates data collection, either quantitative or qualitative, and data analysis to answer a research question and/or are designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge (e.g., designed to draw conclusions, inform policy, or generalize findings) WOULD constitute “research.” For example, knowledge gained from a study may be applied to populations outside of the specific study population. If your project falls into this category you are required to apply for a regular IRB review.

Oral History Archives or Repositories

Oral historians may establish archives or repositories of the narratives collected. When such archives are created and maintained at Marlboro College, the administrator of the archives shall post or disseminate in a clear and conspicuous manner a notice to potential users that use of the contents of the archives for purposes that would constitute human subjects research (e.g. to test hypotheses, draw conclusions, inform policy, or contribute to generalizable knowledge) may require IRB review and approval. Such posting or notice shall contain a web link or contact information for Marlboro College’s IRB.

Education of Oral Historians

Marlboro College faculty, students and staff members participating in an Oral History project should educate themselves with the principles and guidelines for “Human Subjects Research” as well as with the principles and standards of the Oral History Association and any other professional association for the discipline your project falls under

Language taken from the Kenyon College Oral History page.


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