Common pitfalls and mistakes seen on IRB applications
1. The Form A/B/C page is not signed and dated.

You must submit a scanned copy of the complete Form A/B/C with all original
signatures. You may not use electronic or typewritten signatures.

2. The Form A/B/C is not dated, or has dates that have already passed.

The date on which you submit the IRB application must be accurate, or at least
within a few days of the actual submission date.

For the proposed date to commence data collection, do not write "as soon as
possible" (Everyone wants to begin as soon as possible!) or "upon IRB approval"
(Everyone begins upon IRB approval!). Provide a specific date that is realistic and
reasonable. It is not reasonable or realistic to expect to begin data collection a week
or two after the application has been submitted.

3. The title for the research project is not the same across all components of the application

(for example, the title on the consent form is different from the title on the Form A/B/C or
the title in the recruitment email).

The IRB does sometime receive applications for independent research programs
with very similar titles. Therefore, for record keeping purposes, it is important that
the title be the same across all components of any given application.

4. The application is incomplete and missing some of the required forms/documentation.

The kinds of information missing most often include:

Recruitment materials, including fliers to be mailed out or posted around campus,
and emails or letters to potential participants/ administrators at targeted agencies.

Links to online materials, such as online consent forms and surveys

Downloaded copies of the final versions of the consent form and survey that appear
online

A complete application contains the following elements:
  • The signed Form A/B/C
  • Research Outline
  • All recruitment materials in their final form, including fliers and/or emails/letters to
    be sent to potential participants
  • All consent forms in their final forms
  • All surveys in their final forms (or a list of initial questions for semi-structured
    interviews)
  • A clickable link to online consent forms and surveys (if applicable)
  • Signed administrative consent letters for projects that intend to recruit subjects
    and/or collect data at a site outside the College (if applicable).

5. The research design is too vague or incomplete so as to allow the IRB to evaluate
potential risks to participants in the research design.


All elements of your research design, including recruitment, data collection, and
data analysis/presentation, must be well thought out and planned before submitting
your IRB application.

You cannot give the IRB just a general idea of what you plan to do and then work out
the details later. The IRB needs to know the details of the research plan in order to
assess risks.

Providing details on the research plan includes where, when, and how you plan to
recruit potential participants. Many researchers fail to address the recruitment
portion of their research pan.

6. The researcher fails to acknowledge risks in the research design.

  • All foreseen potential risks must be identified.
  • ALL research involves risk. Your project will not be approved if you state that it
    does not involve any risk.
  • At a minimum, studies that intend to maintain the confidentiality of the participants
    and their data always run the risk of a breach of confidentiality, no matter how
    small. The same is true with respect to anonymity.
  • The risks and safeguards identified in the Research Outline must be the same as those identified on the consent form.

7. The consent form does not contain all the information a potential subject needs to make
a fully informed decision regarding whether or not they want to participants.


Many times, the IRB requests that more information be included on the consent
form so that potential participants can better consider the level of risks involved,
especially with regard to the potential for a breach of confidentiality. This includes,
for example:

  • The total number of subjects to be recruited (there are greater risks to
    confidentiality, for example, if there are 5 participants rather than 50
    participants)
  • How the data that is gathered will be used. This includes the possible
    grouping of answers according to demographic variables or other
    background information about the participants, as well as the possible use of
    direct quotes and how participants will be referred to if direct quotes are
    used
  • Who will receive or see the results of the study (this is especially important if
    the findings will be shared with participants' colleagues or supervisors)

8. The Research Outline and/or consent form fail to include other required types of
information.


Please make sure you follow the instructions for completing the Research Outline
and the Instructions for the consent form (available for download on the IRB web
site) carefully and thoroughly.

Please read the web site. Note updates to important information, such as the
contact phone number for the IRB.

If you plan to conduct an online survey, please consult the Online Surveys tab on the
IRB web site, and make sure that you follow the instructions there for procedures
and safeguards with online surveys.