Research Guidelines


Research is an important aspect of the Ph.D. program in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Throughout the program, students will have the opportunity to contribute to the field of journalism and mass communications through scholarly activities such as conducting original research studies, presenting at scholarly conferences, and serving as research assistants to faculty scholars.

To maintain the integrity of our program, all student scholars must complete the required training offered by The University of Kansas Office of Research. These guidelines are not a substitute for the information provided by this university-wide resource but will supplement what the university has established. (View IRB guidelines on the Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) website.)

The guidelines are designed to provide a quick overview of the expectations established for student scholars in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

If at any time you have questions about your role as a researcher or any aspect of conducting original research at KU, contact your adviser, faculty mentor, project sponsor or the Institutional Review Board.

(Adopted Spring 2018)


Any student who violates the guidelines established here are subject to disciplinary action as outlined in The University of Kansas’ Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities and other policies governing research activities.

Additionally, the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications reserves the right to suspend any and all research activities of the student scholar to minimize risk or harm to the study’s participants, the community, the school, the university, and its faculty, staff and students.

Research Protocol

Expectations of School of Journalism and Mass Communications graduate students:

  • All graduate student must obtain proper training and certification from KU’s IRB prior to conducting research.
  • Any research conducted by graduate students will follow current IRB standards and protocols.
  • All researchers are responsible for obtaining IRB approvals. Faculty, staff and graduate students can access the online submission system, called eCompliance, using their KU online ID and password.
  • No research should be conducted prior to obtaining IRB approvals.
  • Any liability claims as a result of unapproved research conducted by the student scholar without prior approval from the IRB will be the responsibility of the researcher and his or her research collaborators.

Recruiting Research Participants

  • Advertising materials for research studies must receive IRB approval.
  • Participant consent forms should also receive IRB approval. Consent form(s) should be written with the characteristics of study participants in mind. For some, this could mean writing the consent form in a lower literacy level or in a different language. Use your best judgment with the goal of deepening the level of understanding of the study participants by making it easy to read and comprehend. When in doubt, keep it simple.
  • When participants are minors (below the age of 18), assent forms are required in addition to consent forms. The assent forms serve as the minor’s consent to take part in the study. However, their legal guardians or parents must also consent to the minor’s participation in the study. Consent forms will be created for and signed by parents or legal guardians. Assent forms will be created for and signed by minors. Assent forms will typically contain less detail than the consent forms and must be written in a way that a minor could comprehend. Keep in mind, that minors are unfamiliar with the research process, and will have concerns. The researcher should address these possible concerns in the assent form. KU IRB provides templates for assent forms to help breakdown research jargon to the language and competency levels of minors.
  • As much as possible, study participants should reflect the broader population without compromising the study design. Consider recruiting participants from different cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, etc.
  • Compensation and incentives for participation in studies should be approved prior to the study launch and should be reasonable. The “reasonableness” of a particular incentive should be based upon the time involved, the inconvenience to the subject, reimbursement for expenses incurred while participating, and should not be so large as to constitute a form of undue influence. Compensation can take several forms, including monetary (cash, gift cards, vouchers, etc.) and nonmonetary (gifts/promotional items, course credit, extra credit, food, etc.)
  • When informing research subjects about the study, at a minimum, the following items should be addressed:
    • The purpose of the research
    • Expected duration
    • Study procedures
    • The right to decline to participate and/or withdraw from the research once it has started, as well as the anticipated consequences of doing so
    • Reasonably foreseeable factors that may influence their willingness to participate, such as potential risks, discomfort or adverse effects
    • Any prospective research benefits o Limits of confidentiality, such as data coding, disposal, sharing and archiving, and when confidentiality must be broken. o Contact information for study organizers, including who to contact with questions following their participation
  • All surveys should be designed to maximize efficiency in order to prevent participant fatigue. Only include the number of questions needed to get the information you need to conduct your study.
  • Choose a target audience and attempt to limit the people who will receive the survey to those that will provide data most relevant.
  • Have clarity and brevity in the communications. Be clear regarding why the participants are getting the survey, how long it will take to complete and how the data will be used.
  • Have efficient survey design; the survey should be no longer than absolutely necessary.
  • Regardless of how surveys are distributed, the IRB must review the proposed research, including the survey, to evaluate subject recruitment methods, the informed consent process and document, data collection and storage methods, risks of participation, and other features of the research to assure adequate subject protections. Therefore, the appropriate IRB forms must be completed and submitted. Research involving the use of surveys is usually minimal risk and can be reviewed by an expedited process or deemed exempt from IRB review, unless the survey questions are sensitive, potentially provoking psychological distress or could potentially result in civil or criminal actions against a subject.
  • Researchers who utilize email surveys must include the following information:
    • The words “Research” should be in the “Subject” line.
    • The message should state at the outset how email addresses were obtained.
    • Include either a statement that there will be no future mailings or an “opt-out” message that directs the researcher to remove the subject’s name from future mailings.
    • Include a contact email address and telephone number in the email.
    • Use a “blind copy format” so that the list of recipients will not appear in the message header.

Data Collection Protocol

  • Fabrication is construction and/or addition of data, observations, or characterizations that never occurred in the gathering of data or running of experiments.
    • Fabrication can occur when “filling out” the remainder of experimental data.
    • Claims made based on incomplete or assumed results is a form of fabrication.
  • Falsification is the changing or omission of research results (data) to support claims, hypotheses, other data, etc.
    • Falsification can include the manipulation of research instrumentation, materials, or processes.
      • Manipulation of images or representations in a manner that distorts the data can also be considered falsification.
  • Studies based on the same data sources
    • If editors receive manuscripts from separate research groups or from the same group analyzing the same data set (for example, from a public database, or systematic reviews or meta-analyses of the same evidence), the manuscripts should be considered independent because they may differ in their analytic methods, conclusions, or both.
    • If the data interpretation and conclusions are similar, it may be reasonable although not mandatory for editors to give preference to the manuscript submitted first.

Graduate Student Research Hours

The William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications will not condone the exploitation of graduate students. The number of hours graduate students are permitted to work is limited as per university policy. Graduate students are permitted to work a maximum of 29 hours per week as per university policy. If a graduate student is on a 50% appointment as a GTA or GRA, the number of hours the student is permitted to work for the assignment is 20 hours per week. The student may seek other hourly university employment opportunities for no more than 9 hours per week. (NOTE: Policy for international students differ. It is best to consult the International Student Services office.)

In order to assist with compliance, graduate students and professors working on research projects in addition to a student’s GTA appointment should keep a recorded log of hours worked by the graduate student. If the student is not receiving monetary compensation for research work, it is up to the research lead professor and graduate student to determine alternate compensation for work performed in support of a research project. Examples include but are not limited to academic credit hours (with department approval), potential authorship, or other appropriate compensation for work performed as agreed upon by the student and professor. It is recommended all agreements are documented in writing to protect the professor and student’s interests should an issue arise.

Additional Reading