/ Provost's Office

Oral History Projects

Applying for an HSRB review of oral history research? Review the following guidelines before submitting your application. 

In principle, Oral History is excluded from oversight by institutional review boards like Hope College's HSRB. In practice "Oral History" is a label that many investigators from different disciplines apply to research projects using a variety of methodologies and with differing research aims. Because some research identified as "Oral History" may put human subjects at risk using methodologies that are not excluded from review, Hope College's HSRB requires all investigators undertaking Oral History Research to review the guidelines below and submit the appropriate form to the HSRB.

Hope College recognizes two basic types of Oral History Research: those that are excluded and those that are not excluded from HSRB review. After determining the type that best fits your project, use the form indicated below. The intent of the principal investigator plays a large part in determining whether or not a particular Oral History Research project is excluded from HSRB review.

Whether or not your project is excluded, Hope College believes ethics and ethical principles should govern all of our educational and research activities.


If the intent is to interview informants who have a unique perspective on a particular historical event or way of life and/or the investigator intends to let the informants' stories stand on their own as a "testimony" or in an archive, with no further analysis, the research is most likely Oral History that is excluded from HSRB review. Hope College's HSRB has determined that this research would not constitute "research" as defined in 45 CFR 46.102(d). Nevertheless, the treatment of participants in Oral History Research must conform to the standards of the Oral History Association. If your project falls into this category, please complete the simple HSRB Oral History Project Registration Form using the HSRB Online Application Management System.

Not Excluded

If, unlike in projects described above, the investigator conducts the surveys or interviews with the intention of comparing, contrasting or establishing commonalities between different segments or among members of the same segment, it is clear that the investigator will draw generalized conclusions from the results. This type of research is most likely Oral History that is not excluded from HSRB review. Because such research is designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge (e.g., designed to draw conclusions, inform policy or generalize findings), Hope College's HSRB has determined that it would constitute "research" as defined in 45 CFR 46.102(d). 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, please go to HSRB's Decision Tree to determine what type of HSRB application to submit.


Oral historians may establish archives or repositories of the narratives collected. When such archives are created and maintained at Hope College (including the Joint Archives), 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 HSRB review and approval. Such posting or notice shall contain a web link or contact information for Hope College’s HSRB.


Hope College faculty, students and staff members participating in Oral History research should educate themselves with the ethical principles and guidelines for "Human Subjects Research" as well as with the ethical principles and standards of the Oral History Association and any other professional association for the discipline under which their project falls.