What is the Institutional Review Board?

The Institutional Review Board's purpose is to review proposed research studies involving human participants to safeguard the rights, safety, and welfare of people involved in research activities conducted at or sponsored by the University of St. Thomas. The University is officially registered in a Federalwide Assurance with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through which the University assures that all activities related to human subjects research, regardless of source of support, will be approved by the IRB in accordance with federal regulations and ethical principles outlined in the Belmont Report. 

As a Catholic institution, the mission of the University of St. Thomas obligates members of the college community "to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good." The research community can support the University mission by striving to ensure the respect and welfare of every research participant.

What do Tommies have to say about their research and the IRB review process?

Have you wondered what it is like to conduct human subjects research? Read the experiences of St. Thomas students who have had their research approved through the IRB process.

Mollie Buelow is a senior studying Criminal Justice with a minor in Family Studies. After conducting a small project in her research methods class, Mollie pursued and received a Collaborative Inquiry Grant and worked with Dr. Patricia Maddox in Sociology to conduct her study. Initially, her plan was to research the experiences of current adults who experienced the juvenile justice system as youth.

Recruitment proved to be a challenge. Mollie applied for amendments to her research so that she could alter her recruitment sites and posters. She resubmitted amendments to the IRB multiple times. Through this process, Mollie says she learned about risk factors for her population that she didn’t initially think of. She also says that the IRB process helped her better articulate her process and goals in her recruitment and research materials.

Even after making changes to her approach, Mollie did not hear from any potential participants. Mollie then explored why this was happening and discovered that many researchers faced difficulty recruiting similar populations. This discovery turned her research in a new direction.

Mollie encouraged students going through the IRB to think of the possibilities that could arise in their research. She advises that having a good communication line with the IRB can help a researcher overcome obstacles and find creative solutions to their research challenges.

Eric Mortensen is a graduate student in Counseling Psychology. His first research experience was as a master’s student. Eric works as a graduate assistant for Dr. Kurt Gehlert and is completing research for his dissertation. He primary method of data collection is through administering qualitative interviews.

Eric says the greatest limitation he faces is recruitment of participants. His protocol is on its eighth amendment and he is working on ways to adjust their recruitment procedure to promote participation. His research experience has taught him how to think critically and problem solve by being persistent and adaptable.

Eric suggests that students preparing protocols for the IRB should spend time thinking about their research questions and utilize library resources to review what is out there concerning their topic. He advises students to get to know their target population or community to identify challenges with recruitment.