Submit an Application

Step 1. Check If You Need IRB Review

Is your project research?

Research is a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizeable knowledge.

If you are having trouble determining if this definition applies to your project, complete our Online Guidance Tool or view our expanded definition in our Research Compliance Standard Operating Procedures Manual.

If you are a graduate or undergraduate student completing your thesis or capstone, and your work will be published in Western Washington University's Contributing to Education through Digital Access to Research (CEDAR) database, this is considered contributing to generalizable knowledge.

Does your research involve human subjects?

A human subject is a living individual about whom an investigator conducting research obtains data through intervention or interaction with the individual OR obtains, uses, studies, analyzes, or generates identifiable private information.

Intervention includes both:

  • physical procedures by which information or biospecimens are gathered (for example, measurement of heart rate or venipuncture) and
  • manipulations of the subject's environment that are performed for research purposes.

Interaction includes communication or interpersonal contact between the investigator and subject (for example, surveying or interviewing).

Private information includes information about behavior that occurs in a context in which an individual can reasonably expect that no observation is taking place, or information about which the individual can reasonably expect will not be made public (for example, a medical record).

Identifiable means that the identity of the subject may be ascertained by the investigator or associated with the information (e.g., by name, code number, pattern of answers, etc.).

Please view our expanded definitions in the Research Compliance Standard Operating Procedures Manual.

Is WWU IRB the right IRB?

We are the right IRB if the research:

  • Is conducted by University faculty, staff, and students
  • Is performed on the premises of the University or its branches
  • Is performed with or involves the use of facilities or equipment belonging to the University
  • Involves University students, staff, or faculty as participants
  • Satisfies a requirement imposed by the University for an honors or a graduate degree program

Step 2. Understand the Requirements of Research

Please see our guidance documents on our Policies & Guidance page.

We recommend that all researchers read our Human Subjects Research Compliance Manual prior to applying to conduct research. Researchers who understand these requirements will have quicker review times.

Step 3. Plan for Review Time

There are three levels of IRB protocol review, assigned based on the tasks involved and the subject population. The IRB will determine the level of review upon receipt of the application. This category will determine how many people on staff review your application and can also give the investigator a general idea of the timeline for approval.

Complete our Tailored Application & Research Category Guidance Survey to help determine your category. You can also view our Human Subjects Research Compliance Manual for guidance on how these categories are applied.

The average times from application submission to approval of each category are:

Exempt: 6-8 days

Expedited: 8-10 days

Full Board: Plan to submit your application at least 2 months before needing to begin your research

Ultimately the timeline will depend on how complete the application is, the workload of the IRB, and the responsiveness of the researcher.

Step 4. Review Common Mistakes to Avoid

Application approvals are often delayed, due to the need to clarify questions or request missing materials. Review this list of common mistakes on applications to keep your review time as short as possible:

  • Mis-identifying the applicable review category. Complete our online guidance survey or review our Human Subjects Research Compliance Manual to help anticipate your research review category and the requirements of that category.

  • Missing or invalid approval signatures. The approval signatures show that the Principal Investigator, your Faculty Advisor (if applicable), and your Department Chair have reviewed and approve the research. For documentation purposes we need one sheet with all of the signatures included. We can accept ink signatures or legal electronic signatures, such as Adobe Signatures or DocuSign.

  • Missing or incomplete questions on the application. As much as we try, the IRB cannot read your mind. We have to take you on your written word, or lack there of. If you do not answer a question on the application the IRB has no way of knowing whether you didn't see the question or if it wasn't applicable. For questions that do not apply, type "NA" in the field.

  • Missing recruitment materials for non-exempt applcations. The IRB needs to review all of your recruitment materials and study instruments.

  • For non-exempt applications, a consent document that is missing elements of consent. Save time by using our consent guidance and templates.

Step 5. Review and Complete All Necessary Trainings

Training in human subjects research protections is required for the Principal Investigator, Faculty Advisor (if applicable), and any other personnel who will interact or intervene with subjects or have access to their identifiable data. This is a free online training through CITI that takes an estimated 3-6 hours. Here are instructions on how to register: How to Register for CITI Trainings Instructions.

Some types of research require additional training, depending on the funding source. Review the applicable training requirements for your research.

These training certificates are not submitted along with your application. It is the responsibility of the PI to maintain documentation of these trainings and ensure that trainings are up to date. Our office will conduct post-approval monitoring checks of training certifications.

Step 6. Complete an Application

Visit our Forms page to download the Human Subjects Application Form. Carefully review the instructions on the first page before beginning.

When complete, email the application to compliance@wwu.edu.