All students who are conducting research involving human subjects (typically, conducting interviews, administering surveys, or doing ethnographic research) need to receive an official letter from Harvard’s Committee on the Use of Human Subjects (CUHS) before they start their research. The result of the CUHS review can be either that the research is eligible for an exempt determination (generally, research that does not collect sensitive identifiable information or involve interactions with children) or that the research has been approved. If you are conducting human subjects research for your senior thesis, please visit the Harvard Committee on Human Subjects to start the application process.
In order to submit a completed application, you will need to have secured a thesis supervisor, have a well-formed study procedure, and be able to identify who will be studied, where the study will take place, how subjects will be recruited, what will be asked of them, and what measures will be taken to protect their confidentiality.
The template guide available on the CUHS website provides information on the different requirements for exempt and non-exempt research. You will also need to take an online human subjects training (either CITI or NIH, which are available on the CUHS website) or the CUHS-led undergraduate training.
If your thesis supervisor is a ladder-faculty member (Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor) or a senior lecturer at Harvard, they can serve as the faculty sponsor on the project. If this is the case, for non-exempt research, your supervisor will need to have completed the CITI or NIH training before the project can be approved.
If your supervisor is a Social Studies lecturer, they may have received a waiver to serve as the faculty sponsor, or Principal Investigator, for undergraduate projects. Ask your supervisor if this is the case. If your supervisor is a Social Studies lecturer who has not received this waiver, or if your supervisor is a lecturer in another program, graduate student, fellow, or is not affiliated with Harvard, Anya Bassett can serve as the faculty sponsor for your project.
If Anya is serving as the faculty sponsor, please list her as such on the CUHS protocol template, and list your supervisor as the “other advisor,” indicating their status. Listing Anya as the faculty sponsor will lead her to receive an email once you have submitted your application. She will want to receive an email from your supervisor confirming that they approve of the application, and she will then review the application and, once she is comfortable serving as the faculty sponsor, indicate her approval.
Most Social Studies thesis projects can be reviewed within 2-4 weeks, but you must allow at least a month between the time you apply to for human subjects approval and need to start your research.
To facilitate the approval process, please read through the “CUHS template guide” carefully before starting your application. Every year, student applications are significantly delayed because they did not follow the directions.