Researchers need to meet deadlines, but it is sometimes difficult to figure out everything that has to be done. As such, we created a general student timeline that follows a linear path from initial research conceptualization to graduation. This general timeline highlights nine typical markers for successful student research, but some students may conduct pilot studies or other forms of research that do not strictly follow this general timeline.
- COMPLETE HUMAN SUBJECT TRAINING: All team members (e.g., student, faculty, or staff) working on a study must be trained to conduct human subject research. For example, Primary Investigators, Research Assistants, Research Coordinators, Collaborative-Investigators, External Investigators should all be trained. Student researchers should consult their IRB administrators to determine the appropriate training modules and procedures.
- SECURE FACULTY SPONSOR: A faculty sponsor plays an essential role because they work with IRB administrators to support student researchers. Faculty sponsors are often responsible for helping students craft a research protocol that is both ethical and feasible. Most IRB offices require students to secure a faculty sponsor for their research before submitting an IRB application.
- PREPARE RESEARCH: Student researchers should: (a) provide relevant background information and scientific justification for the purpose of their study, (b) develop research questions, (c) describe the specific data they intend to collect, and (d) outline their methodology, consenting process and recruitment plan. Not only is this incredibly important to narrow down during the conceptual phase, student researchers will also need to include these details in the IRB application.
- FINISH PROPOSAL HEARING: A proposal hearing is not required for submitting an IRB application. However, as part of a student researchers’ timeline they will often engage in a thesis or dissertation proposal hearing where they propose their intended study in front of their research committee. After a successful proposal hearing defense, the student researcher will seek IRB approval for that proposed research.
- SUBMIT an IRB APPLICATION: Students will likely have to generate an IRB application, consent form, recruitment materials, and data collection instruments as part of their IRB submission. Students should follow the guidance of their faculty sponsor in creating these materials prior to formally submitting an application to the IRB.
- OBTAIN IRB APPROVAL: Some IRB protocols are reviewed and approved without any requests for revisions. However, in most cases, researchers will be asked to address revisions. This process may take some time to complete. Researchers should consult their IRB administrators to confirm typical IRB review and approval times.
- HAPPY RESEARCHING: Go forth, do good research work, and make the world a better place.
- UPDATE IRB: Most research goes along smoothly, but in some cases researchers need to report an adverse event or protocol deviation. Some researchers may update their study by submitting a modification (e.g., add a new research site or survey instrument). Researchers will also update the IRB when prompted by continuing review notifications or when they want to terminate the protocol.
- GRADUATE: Reap the benefits of all this hard work. Then, after graduation do more good work!
Timelines are a valuable tool for understanding the process that unfolds over the course of student research. Tailor this general timeline for successful student research to fit your goals and needs.