Student Researchers


Frequently Asked Questions

I’m a UCI student interested in conducting my own research project.  Do I need IRB approval before I can begin?

Yes. Students conducting human subjects research require IRB approval or registration before they can initiate their project. See Definition of Human Subjects Research for more information. Please consult with the Human Research Protections staff if you are unsure whether your project constitutes human subjects research.

Can I be listed as the Lead Researcher on the IRB Application?

Yes. UCI students can be Lead Researchers on human subjects protocols with Faculty Sponsorship. Please note: Undergraduates can be Lead Researchers on protocols that involve no more than minimal risk to subjects (i.e., Exempt or Expedited research). See: Lead Researcher Eligibility to determine who can serve as a Faculty Sponsor.

Should I submit a new IRB application, or be added to my Faculty Advisor’s protocol?

When a student’s research project consists of the collection and/or analysis of data that is part of the scope of an existing faculty member’s IRB approved research, the student can be added to the Faculty member’s protocol, rather than submitting as Lead Researcher on a new IRB Application.

Is IRB review necessary if my study involves anonymous surveys or interviews?

Yes. An application for Exempt Registration is required if you plan to conduct anonymous survey or interview research.

How do I apply for IRB review?

  1. Faculty Sponsorship - Find a faculty advisor who will sponsor and guide you throughout the research process.
  2. Formulate your research question and study design. If your study involves interviews, surveys, or questionnaires identify the standardized instruments that will be used. If a new measure will be used develop your survey or questionnaire instrument or interview protocol.
  3. Define your sample population and develop recruitment procedures. See: Subject Selection, Recruitment and Compensation. For more info on the use of Social Science Human Subjects Pool (SSHSP), see: Human Subject Lab Pool
  4. Determine how you will obtain informed consent. See: Drafting the Informed Consent Form.
  5. All study team members are required to successfully complete for credit the CITI HRP tutorial and HIPAA Research tutorial as found on the Office of Research Training & Education page, if applicable, Even non-UCI investigators on UCI protocols are required to complete the tutorial(s). Applications may be withheld pending tutorial completion. You may verify that research team members have completed the required tutorial(s) by entering their name on this webpage: Tutorial Verification.
  6. Complete the IRB Application. See: Protocol Preparation Checklist. Also see: Common IRB Submission Errors.
  7. Faculty Sponsor and Department Chair’s signatures are required on IRB applications for student research. Applications will be withheld until all required signatures are provided. Please note that if your Faculty Sponsor, or any member of the study team is the Department Chair/Director, the signature of the next highest level of administrative authority is required.
  8. Submit the appropriate number of copies to the Office of Research Administration. See: How to submit Electronic IRB Applications for Review.
  9. Save a copy of your application packet for your records and back-up all files relating to your application on your computer, as you may be asked to submit revisions following the Initial Review.
  10. See: “I’ve submitted my IRB Application. Now what happens?” on IRB Frequently Asked Questions for more information about the IRB review process.

How long does it take to obtain IRB Approval/Registration?

Exempt and Expedited protocols are reviewed on a rolling basis and reviews usually occur within 4-6 weeks of receipt of all required documentation. Social/behavioral full Committee protocols are reviewed monthly; biomedical full Committee protocols are review twice per month. The turnaround time from submission to approval generally takes 4-8 weeks for full Committee protocols depending on the completeness of the submission including the required additional documents (e.g., informed consent/assent forms, recruitment materials, questionnaires) and whether other UCI Committees must first approve the research (e.g., CRFA, PRMC, IRB/BERD). See: Protocol Preparation Checklist.

How will I be notified when my IRB application is approved?

For Exempt and Expedited protocols, you will need to contact the Human Research Protections staff. An official IRB approval letter and all approved documentation will be sent by email to the Lead Researcher within a week of IRB approval. If you are listed on a full Committee protocol, Human Research Protections posts the IRB decisions the day after the meeting date. See: Results of Full Committee Meetings.

How long is my approval good for?

Most Expedited and full Committee protocols are approved for one year from the date of approval (the IRB may grant a shorter or longer approval period depending on a number of factors). Continuation of an approved protocol requires submission of the Continuing Protocol Application. Exempt research is registered for five years. Continuation of an Exempt protocol beyond five years requires submission of a new IRB Application.

Additional Tips for Student Researchers

  • If you plan to conduct research off-site (e.g., non-UCI facility - elementary school, day care center, community center, etc.), at a minimum you will need to obtain written permission from an authority of the site (e.g., Principal, Director, etc.) before IRB approval may be granted. See: Human Research Activities Performed at Other Institutions for additional information.
  • For international research, allow plenty of time for the IRB approval process. We suggest submitting application materials two months ahead of when research is planned to begin.  For example, if the research project will occur during the summer months, we recommend that you submit your IRB Application in April or May, which will allow the IRB staff sufficient time to review your IRB Application and therefore you will be able to secure your IRB approval prior to departing to the international region where your research project will occur.  More importantly, be sure to verify whether Export Control laws would be applicable to your university-related travel by contacting the Export Control Officer.
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