The Institutional Review Board Process

Trinity College’s Institutional Review Board acts as the governing body over research involving human subjects and helps Trinity researchers comply with state and federal laws related to research conduct.  Any student or faculty member who wishes to conduct research that involves human participants must submit their proposed project to Trinity’s IRB for approval before any research can begin.  Going through the IRB process is particularly valuable to students who are considering future careers involving research, because they have the opportunity to practice skills and confront challenges that they’re likely to face again post-graduation.

The first part of this process requires all applicants to have completed ethics training through the  CITI program, which is something students can finish even before their research design has been finalized.  Because I had taken a course in Research Design & Analysis the previous semester, my CITI training was already up-to-date.  There are many modules on the CITI website, and most require a time commitment of a couple hours, so it’s important to check with your professor or the IRB website to make sure you’re completing the correct training module.

The next step is to determine which type of review from the IRB your research requires.  If your research involves minimal risk and does not link any identifying data to its participants, you may be able apply for exemption from IRB review.  If there is some risk or if data can be linked to participants, you may have to submit a proposal for expedited or full review, depending on the specifics of your research.  Once you’ve decided which review process is suitable for your research, it’s time to fill out the appropriate form to be submitted for approval (Either Form A for Exemption, Form B for Expedited Review, or Form C for Full Review). Check with your advisor before you begin filling out the IRB form, because you’ll want to make certain you’ve chosen the appropriate review process for your project.

Because my thesis project involves providing multiple interventions for 8th graders related to developing their metacognitive skills and mindfulness abilities, our research team submitted a request for expedited review.  Even though the research involves minimal risk, we are working with minors so we understood the expedited review process would be most appropriate.

The form itself looks intimidating, but mostly it requires information that you’ve hopefully already considered during your design phase, and the request gives you a platform to practice articulating aspects of your project that may have been ill-defined.  Be sure to include any measures you’ll be giving to participants, as those are subject to the review as well.

Once your form is complete and all documents are gathered, they can be submitted to James Hughes, the Chair of Trinity’s Institutional Review Board, for approval.  You’ll likely receive a decision about whether or not your research project has been approved within 2-10 days.  Once you receive your approval, the real work begins!


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