Avoiding Pitfalls

Overview

The following pitfalls often result in delayed application processing. Review the below information to get ahead and avoid delays:


Using Outdated Applications & Templates

Using the most up-to-date materials will make the IRB process easier on you as well as the IRB office. The IRB continuously updates its application and templates to improve clarity and usability.

  • Researchers that submit outdated applications (older than one year) will be asked to re-submit the most recent version.
  • The revision date of the application is listed in the footer.
  • To avoid delays, always download your application and templates from our website.
  • Do not use documents obtained from faculty chairs and blackboard sites unless you verify that they are current.

Poorly Written Informed Consent Documents

Please do not attempt to make your own informed consent form from scratch; use our templates instead!

The IRB provides templates and instructions to make this process easier on you, and to be sure that all of the federally-mandated information is included. Visit the Informed Consent page for more information.


Improper Data Handling & Use

Handling and protecting data is the most important aspect of performing any type of research.

Participants must be confident that you will take the necessary steps to ensure that their information is kept anonymous or private and confidential. This might involve the use of a coding system, numbering system, pseudonyms, or ensuring that survey software is set to "anonymous" data gathering.

The following page gives additional guidance on how to maintain confidentiality throughout the research process:


Confusing Anonymity & Confidentiality

Know the difference between anonymity and confidentiality in the research context.

  • Anonymous
    • You, the researcher, will not know who said what, or who provided which response.
    • Example: An anonymous online survey that does not ask for personal, identifiable information from participants.
  • Confidential
    • You, the researcher, will know who participated, and who gave what response.
    • Example: An recorded interview, where the researcher directly asks participants questions and receives answers. Pseudonyms should be used in lieu of participant names in the research dissertation/thesis/publication.

Consider the above definitions when you are responding to the questions on the application. If you are using both confidential and anonymous methods, check both boxes and explain your data safeguarding methods.


Failure to Prepare, Submit, & Respond

Prepare.

The IRB reviews applications on a first-come, first-served basis, so plan ahead when you are preparing to conduct research.

  • The entire process generally takes 1-2 months.
  • Most applications require at least 2 sets of revisions.

Submit.

Submit a thorough, well-thought-out application. If you include enough detail, approval will come easily.

  • Plan ahead, and start the process early.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to seek IRB approval for your project.
  • Submit all of your documents in a single email to irb@liberty.edu.

Respond.

Respond to requests for revisions or clarification in a timely manner. Most submissions are turned around in two weeks or less (for each set of revisions). However, if you do not return revision requests to the IRB for several weeks, you will obviously be delayed in receiving approval.

  • The sooner you submit corrections, the sooner the IRB can issue your approval.

Incomplete Applications & Lack of Detail

Carefully complete the appropriate application, making sure to include enough detail without being wordy. If the IRB is unable to tell what you are doing, they will ask for clarification, which causes delays.

  • Answer all questions, as applicable.
    • If you are unsure if a question applies, contact us prior to submission.
  • Be brief, yet informative in your responses.
  • Remain consistent when describing procedures, time estimates, titles, etc.
  • Do not include extraneous information.
  • Clearly describe all study procedures and study groups (e.g., control and experimental).
  • Adequately describe your participant criteria. Who is being asked to participate?

Not Understanding Archival and Non-Archival Data

Determine the type of data you are collecting, and respond accordingly on the application. If you are using both non-archival and archival data, check both boxes on the application.

  • Non-Archival Data
    • This is data that is being collected for the first time (primary, "new" data).
    • Examples: Interviewing teachers, conducting a focus group, surveying the general public
  • Archival
    • This is data that has been previously collected for another purpose (secondary, "old" data).
    • Examples: Student grades, government health data, financial data

Missing Documents

Not attaching required documents is the number one reason why approval is delayed. If you do not submit all of your supporting documents, or are missing signature pages, the IRB will not be able to approve your study until they are received. 

  • 95% of IRB applications will require the following supplemental documents:
    • Recruitment Letter/Materials
    • Consent Document
    • Survey/Interview Questions
  • Include all required supporting documents with your initial application email.
    • If you are unsure, contact us prior to submission. It never hurts to be over-prepared. If you do not need a document, we will let you know.
  • Submit your documents as Word documents.
    • The only exceptions are proprietary data collection instruments and signature pages.
  • Promptly submit proof of permission (if applicable).

To ensure that you have submitted the necessary documents, use the IRB Application Checklist.


Waiting to Obtain Permission from an Organization or School

You may seek permission to conduct research or gather data from schools, businesses, churches, or other organizations prior to receiving IRB approval. However, do NOT begin recruiting your actual participants.

Some schools or organizations may require IRB approval prior to giving their permission. If this occurs, we will provide you with conditional approval once all requested revisions are received. You can then provide the conditional letter to the school or organization to obtain permission. Once the IRB receives documentation of permission, a complete approval letter will be provided to you.


Submitting Documents in the Wrong Format

We review research applications and supporting documents in Microsoft Word using the track changes and comments feature. Please submit your materials as separate Word documents to facilitate our review. DO NOT submit your entire thesis or dissertation proposal as a "supplemental document." We do not have the time to sort through your entire draft to find the specific documents we need. It is your responsibility to submit documents properly to ensure a timely review.

Exceptions to the Microsoft Word requirement include:

  • Scanned signature pages
  • Proprietary instruments (surveys, tools, etc.) that are only available online or in print
  • Signed permission letters from institutions, schools, etc.