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Formal Review of Research Proposals

When is Formal Review Required?

Student & Campus Life research projects that will use substantial resources of the Cornell community must be formally reviewed by the committee before they can be initiated. At a minimum, this includes research that draws participants from a major institutional data base, for example, those maintained by the University Registrar; Office of the Dean of Students; Fraternity, Sorority and Independent Living; and Class Councils. Regardless of how potential participants are to be identified, research that meets the following criteria will also require formal review by the committee:

  • Involves more that 100 participants for a quantitative data collection method (e.g., survey research) or 25 participants for a qualitative data collection method (e.g., focus groups or interviews);
  • Is broader in scope than program evaluation (e.g., asks about more than just program-based experiences or includes individuals who did not participate in the target program or event); and
  • Will require a substantial amount of participants’ time (e.g., protocols that will take more than 10 or 15 minutes to complete, or longitudinal research designs).

Conversely, research projects that are very limited in scope, and research that is conducted exclusively for program evaluation purposes (i.e., research that examines the program-related experiences of students who participate in a specific program or event) will generally be exempt from formal review by the committee.

Submitting a Proposal for Formal Review

The committee meets monthly during the fall, winter and spring semesters to formally review research proposals and conduct related business. At least eight weeks before the anticipated launch date of the project, researchers should submit a SCLRG research proposal form to Leslie Meyerhoff or Marne Einarson. The proposal form asks for information about the purpose and proposed design of the study, as well as draft versions of data collection instruments. Samples of completed research proposals are available here and here.

The following criteria will be used by the committee to evaluate research proposals:

  1. Importance: Does the research address an important issue at Cornell? Will it provide useful information for academic planning or providing services to Cornell students?
  2. Content and Design: Does the proposed methodology fit the research question(s)? Are the questions well-constructed and easily understood? Is the instrument of reasonable length? Have the questions been pretested?
  3. Population and Sampling Methodology: Who is the target population? Is the sampling methodology appropriate to the research question(s)? Has the same student cohort and/or sample been used in other recent research? Could a smaller sample be drawn to achieve the same objective? How will the researcher(s) gain access to the proposed participants?
  4. Timing: Does the proposed timing of the research overlap with or follow closely upon other research directed toward the same population? When were data on this issue last collected at Cornell? Is the data collection period scheduled at a time when students are likely to respond?
  5. Data Management and Dissemination: Who will have access to the data? What are the provisions for secure storage of the data? Can data from this research be linked to other data sets? What is the plan for analyzing the data and disseminating the results? How will research results contribute to better decision making? How will research results be shared more broadly?
  6. Resources: What resources will be required to conduct this research (e.g., instrument design, Web application development, mail and/or e-mail services, data entry and analysis)? From where will these resources be obtained?
  7. Overall Impact: What will be the impact of the study? Are there any conceivable negative impacts on the University? Will the study overburden respondents? Overall, do the expected benefits of the study appear to outweigh the costs?

Based on their evaluation of the research proposal, the committee may decide to:

  • Approve the project as submitted
  • Approve the project with recommendations for changes that must be adopted before the project can be initiated
  • Require revisions and re-submission of the project before approval is granted
  • Reject the project (e.g., the potential benefits of the data do not justify the costs of collection; the research design has weaknesses that cannot be rectified)

IRB Approval

If research results will not be used exclusively for internal purposes (e.g., they will be presented or published beyond Cornell; or used for an undergraduate honors thesis, master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation), researchers may also be required to obtain approval from Cornell’s Institutional Review Board for Human Participants (IRB). IRB approval should be sought after the proposal has been reviewed by the SAS Research Group. The committee should subsequently be informed of the decision of the IRB.