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IRB Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the IRB?

A. The IRB is a committee that exists in every university to protect the rights and welfare of human participants in research studies. The Liberty IRB consists of faculty members from various departments, as well as one member from outside the university, who review research proposals with the express purpose to ensure the privacy, anonymity and, above all, safety of research volunteers. 

Q. Do I need the IRB?

A. You will need the IRB if you are doing any research at Liberty University involving human subjects. If you are a student collecting data on persons for a thesis or dissertation, you will need to go through the IRB process. If you are a faculty member collecting data, you will need to go though the IRB process. 

Q. What is the IRB process?

A. For students, after the dissertation committee/Thesis Chair approves the student’s proposal, ensuring that methodology and any instruments are clear, the student completes IRB application and obtains the chair’s signature as the faculty sponsor. Then the application is sent to the IRB through email (please see the application document for specific submission instructions). Submitting an electronic copy of the application as a word document will facilitate IRB communication and keeps the process moving more quickly. The IRB will meet to discuss the project.  The size of the meeting will vary based on the project. Some of these meetings may take place in chat rooms or through email unless the application needs a full review. Most often, some methodological safeguards are requested and revisions are needed. After the applicant makes the appropriate revisions and resubmits the application, the IRB final feedback and decision are given to the applicant and, if applicable, the student’s Chair. 

Q. Do I need IRB approval to begin collection of data?

A. Yes. It is important to read the following question about the IRB timeline so that the IRB process is built into the research schedule.  

Q. How long will this take?

A. The general timeline is one to two months, but varies with the project. For a simple project (Exempt), allow one month. For a more complicated project (Expedited or Full Review), allow two months. 
These allowances assume the following:
•    The applicant completes requested revisions in a timely fashion.
•    Only one revision cycle is needed.

Q. Under which category will my IRB Application be reviewed?

A. While there are three IRB review categories, there is now only one application form. Some questions the committee will consider to determine which category of review your research falls under are: 

1.    Does the project involve a special population?
Children, adolescents, specific ethnic groups, lower socio-economic status, anyone who cannot give legal consent (i.e. prisoners, mentally retarded).

2.    Is it minimal risk?
Minimal risk means that the project involves no more emotional or physical stress than might be anticipated in daily life. The study also does not put the person at financial or legal risk.

3.    (If  survey or interview) Is the data collected anonymously?
If you are collecting detailed demographic information on people that may lead someone to identify a person in the study, then Expedited or Full Review procedures will be used.

4.    Does data collection involve audio, video, digital or image recordings?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” Expedited or Full Review procedures will be used. 

Regardless of which category you think your application will fall under, provide the committee with as much detail as possible on the application form. The determination of the appropriate review procedure to be used for your project ultimately lies with the committee, so providing a lot of detail can never hurt and will likely speed your review time up considerably!