This guide is meant to aid the writing of an Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposal. An IRB is a committee that reviews research proposals in order to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects. The members of an IRB evaluate the risks and benefits of your research, the treatment of your subject population, the soundness of your methodology, and the value of the knowledge you expect to contribute. Receiving IRB approval is a prerequisite to the publication of your study in a peer-reviewed journal (such as the Annals of Emergency Dispatch and Response).

Research demands a lot of preparation. In fact, if you’ve never prepared an IRB proposal before, the process can seem daunting and obscure—it is common to not know where to begin, or what comes next. Therefore, we think there is great value in a solid road map, which in this case consists of a list of actions to guide your research planning. These actions are intended to help you flesh out your ideas and plan out the logistics involved. Even though you might start out with a vague notion of what you want to do, after completing the actions presented here, you will have thought through the critical features of your study design. And once you have done this important thinking work, you will be ready to write an effective and persuasive research proposal.

So, what are these critical components of a proposal? To answer this question, an effective and persuasive IRB proposal should possess or reflect:

  • Actionable and specific research objectives
  • A detailed, credible data collection procedure and data analysis plan
  • An understanding of the ethics involved
  • An understanding of the context of your research—like the knowledge you plan to contribute to the field of emergency dispatch

Mirroring these components, the “action steps” given here are divided into four main sections: Defining the Objectives, Choosing the Method, Understanding the Ethics, and Putting Your Work in Context. Once a reader has carefully gone through these steps, we believe that the writing of the actual IRB proposal will prove not too difficult. We hope that this framework is intuitive, and we wish you well on your journey from novice researchers to seasoned ones.


  1. Action One: Identify the Problem
  2. Action Two: Brainstorm the Problem
  3. Action Three: Set the Goal
  4. Action Four: Focus the Goal
  5. Action Five: Write the Specific Objectives

Section Goal: You will write a set of specific and actionable research objectives, which can later be inserted into an IRB proposal.

Section Prerequisites: None.


  1. Action One: Determine the Appropriate Data to Collect
  2. Action Two: Plan Where to Obtain the Data
  3. Action Three: Plan How to Analyze the Data
  4. Action Four: Write a Detailed Data Collection Procedure
  5. Action Five: Write a Detailed Data Analysis Procedure

Section Goal: You will write data collection and data analysis procedures for your study (which we recommend you do with the assistance of a mentor). These procedures can be used to complete the Methodology section of an IRB proposal.

Section Prerequisites: A set of research objectives.


  1. Action One: Assess the Benefits of Your Research
  2. Action Two: Assess the Risks of Your Research to Human Subjects
  3. Action Three: Determine if Informed Consent is Needed
  4. Action Four: Write a Detailed Description of the Benefits and Risks

Section Goal: You will write the carefully considered benefits and risks of your proposed research. This description can be used to demonstrate to an IRB board that your study meets its ethical standards.

Section Prerequisites: A set of research objectives, a data collection plan, and a data analysis procedure.


  1. Action One: Identify the Central Terms and Concepts of Your Study
  2. Action Two: Determine a List of Synonyms for Your Keywords
  3. Action Three: Search Google Scholar to Identify Relevant Sources
  4. Action Four: Narrow or Broaden the Search as Needed
  5. Action Five: Write Detailed Answers to Introduction Key Questions

Section Goal: You will compile a list of relevant peer-reviewed sources. Using these sources, you will write detailed answers to the Introduction Key Questions. The answers you have will assist you in writing the Introduction to your IRB proposal.

Section Prerequisites: None (Though to give the best answers to the Introduction Key Questions, we recommend completing sections 1-3 beforehand).