Whereas participant protection protocols are norms in medical research, they are only recently being adopted in social and behavioural sciences. This study examined human subject guidelines in the top 40 high-impact anthropology, business, and education research journals according to their impact factor as released in 2019. For these 120 journals, a unified classification framework was developed to capture the central elements of their ethical review and informed consent requirements. The findings suggest that the investigated journals do not view ethical review as an established norm for interview and survey studies. Only 10 (8%) journals required ethical review from all studies involving human participants. Informed consent was more frequently addressed, but none of the fields exhibited widely established guidelines similar to medical research journals. A total of 31 (26%) journals required informed consent from all studies involving human participants. There was little difference between the three disciplines investigated. Although the investigated journals represented social and behavioural sciences, their guidelines often concerned medical or intervention research with few requirements for interaction (e.g. survey) research. There is an opportunity for high-impact journals to establish norms for adoption by researchers and other journals.