Peer Scholarship Advice

The official blog of the Charles Center Peer Scholarship Advisors

Category: Freshman Monroe

Guide to the Student IRB

Are you receiving funding through the Charles Center to do research involving human subjects? If so, you will likely need to go through the process of submitting your research proposal to the Student Institutional Review Board (IRB). The Student IRB is a committee that will review your proposed research methods to ensure that they do not violate any ethical standards. Applying for and receiving IRB approval can can take several weeks, so you should start as soon as you have your project idea fully fleshed out. This process may seem complicated, but if you follow these steps you should have no problems getting approval for your project:

1. Figure out if your Project Requires IRB Approval
Most research with human subjects  (e.g. taking surveys, conducting interviews or focus groups, etc.) will require Student IRB approval. However, if your research mostly involves helping your advisor in research that he/she is already doing, you may be covered under your advisor’s IRB certification, and you may not need to submit to the Student IRB. Talk with your advisor to see if this is the case for your project. Moreover, your project must fall under “exempt research” to qualify for IRB approval. “Exempt research” must not cause harm to participants, and it must be anonymous.

2. Complete CITI Training
CITI training is a set of online modules that teach you the guidelines of performing ethical research with human subjects. All students applying for Student IRB approval will need to complete the Charles Center Student IRB Module. Moreover, your advisor will need to complete modules relating to their area of expertise. Make sure to save copies of both your and your advisor’s completion reports.

3. Upload Necessary Documents to the Campus Protocol & Compliance System portal
To apply for Student IRB approval, you’ll need to upload the following documents to the online application:

  • CITI training completion reports (from both student and advisor)
  • Consent form you’ll be using in your project (use sample consent form as a template)
  • Summary of your project (this can be copied from your Project Proposal in your research funding application)
  • Data collection documents (e.g. Interview/survey questions, etc.)

Once you’ve filled out the application and uploaded these documents, you’ll be ready to submit!

4. Check for Revision Requests
The Student IRB may ask you to make revisions to your original application. If they do, be sure to revise and resubmit in a timely manner.

5. Check for your Approval Notification
When your project is approved, you will receive a protocol number. Enter this number on your research grant electronic award letter and return it to the Charles Center to receive your grant payment.


You can find more specific details about the Student IRB process here. As always, if you have any questions about receiving Student IRB approval or any other aspect of applying for Charles Center Research Funding, don’t hesitate to come into the PSA office any time from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday! Thanks for reading!

Finding a Freshman Monroe Project Topic and Advisor

If you’re a freshman Monroe Scholar at W&M, you have the chance to apply for a $1000 grant to spend two weeks of your summer doing a research project on a topic of your choosing. For those of you who have had no formal research experience, and even those who have, it can seem daunting to think of a topic to dig so deeply into, and even more challenging to actually spend the time doing the research. Luckily, the Peer Scholarship Advisors are here with tips on how to go about finding a topic and an advisor for your freshman Monroe Project. Here are a few steps that may help guide you in finding a project idea:

1. Reflect on your Coursework
Freshman Monroe Projects are designed to build upon your freshman year experience at William & Mary, and as a result it’s required that you choose a topic related to a course that you’ve taken here so far. You may want to look deeper into a topic that you brushed on in class, or your idea may be to research a topic that you didn’t cover explicitly in class but is related to other materials that you did cover. Think about what classes you’ve taken, which ones you liked the most, and why you liked them the most, and this can help you narrow down your topic. If you already know what classes you’ll want to take in the future or what you want to major in, this can give you ideas for a project as well!

2. Think about your Future
What kind of research or coursework do you see yourself doing in the future at WM or after graduation? How could your freshman Monroe Project prepare you for future research or for your career? Many students continue to study the topic of their freshman Monroe Projects as an independent study, or even use it as a springboard to a future Honor’s Thesis. This is not the case for everyone, but it can be helpful to keep in mind these possibilities, and they can give you ideas for topics to consider.

3. Not too Narrow, not too Broad
This project must take up at least the equivalent of two full-time weeks of work (i.e. 80 hours), so make sure that your topic isn’t so specific or so simple that it could be answered in a much shorter time than that. Moreover, although many freshman Monroe Projects do take more than the required 80 hours to complete, keep in mind that you’re not being expected to write a 100-page dissertation! This project is only intended to get your feet wet with research, so be mindful of that and pick a project that you could realistically do with the knowledge that you have in a time not too much longer than 80 hours. You can read through the guidelines for your project proposal here get a better idea of the scope of your project.

4. Meet with a Swem Research Librarian
The research desk at Swem is a great resource for you for any research that you might do during your four years at W&M, be it for a class or for individual research. The librarians are very knowledgeable and can give you guidance in narrowing your research topic. You can make appointments with them here.


It’s also important to remember that you must have a faculty advisor for your freshman Monroe Project! Your advisor must be a William & Mary professor who has expertise in the area of your proposed topic. They can be the professor who taught the class which inspired your project, but this is not required. Here are a places you can look to help find your faculty advisor:

5. Talk to your Professors
If the professor of the class that inspired your topic is the person you want to be your advisor, then this is the only step! Talk to them before or after class or go to their office hours and request politely that they advise you in your project. But even if you’re not sure if you want this professor to be your advisor, they can still give you helpful guidance. If your topic isn’t specifically in their area of expertise, they can direct you to other faculty members who will be more knowledgeable. Moreover, your professor can help you narrow down project ideas if you’re not completely sure what you want to do.

6. Check the Department’s Faculty Directory
William & Mary department websites have directories which list all of the faculty members, their research interests, and their contact information. This can be a helpful place to look to find out which faculty’s expertise aligns best with your topic. Once you’ve found someone you want to work with, send them an email to ask to meet and discuss your topic. Although it can be nerve-wracking to email a professor you don’t know out of the blue, W&M professors are usually very happy to help students interested in getting involved in research!


If you have questions about any part of the Freshman Monroe Project application process, feel free to come into the Peer Scholarship Advisor office in the Charles Center Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. As always, good luck with your application!