What is the Role of the Institutional Review Board?

Posted on January 25, 2018  in  [ Doctoral Journey ]

As a doctoral researcher at Grand Canyon University, you may occasionally collaborate with other learners in your program. However, for the majority of your time, you will engage in independent, original research. Wherever your research takes you, all research proposals must be approved by GCU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Understanding the Institutional Review Board

The Institutional Review Board is an administrative entity established for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare and rights of human research participants. GCU’s IRB follows the processes established by federal regulations, the Belmont Report and GCU policy and procedures. The IRB has the authority to reject or approve your proposed research as well as monitor it and require modifications.

Identifying Research That Requires IRB Approval

All studies and projects that meet the federal definition of research and involve human subjects, require IRB approval. Under federal regulations, “research” is defined as any systematic testing, evaluation or investigation. “Human subject” is defined as any living individual whose data or identifiable private information is available to the researcher. Even analysis of data that is readily available in publicly accessible databases needs IRB approval. No screening, recruiting or data collection of any kind should begin until receiving official IRB approval. Failure to obtain IRB approval is a serious research ethics violation.

Understanding the Requirements for IRB Approval

IRB processes varies for each individual project. In general, your research proposal must meet the following requirements:

  • You are qualified to conduct the research.
  • You have created an ethical research environment.
  • Your researchdesign takes the required steps to protect human participants.

Your research should contribute to the body of knowledge in your field or to society in general.

Thinking Beyond IRB Requirements

Every research study involving participants should follow informed consent guidelines. Study participants should always fully understand that their participation is voluntary and that they can withdraw from the study at any time. Study participants should understand potential risks and benefits. Other elements of ethical research include:

  • Upholding confidentiality and privacy.
  • Keeping confidential records secure.
  • Identifying and avoiding professional conflicts of interest.

The College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University requires that all of our learners abide by the strictest standards of ethical research and that they remain in full compliance with all applicable regulations. Our Institutional Review Board thoroughly evaluates every research proposal. If you are interested in pursuing a PhD, EdD or DBA program, click on the Request More Information button at the top of the page.


  • “Institutional Review Boards Frequently Asked Questions.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from: fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm126420.htm

About College of Doctoral Studies

Grand Canyon University’s innovative doctoral degree programs prepare learners for leadership roles in their professions, communities and society. Our dynamic online learning community, integrated dissertation process, wealth of resources and collaborative environment support a successful and meaningful doctoral journey. We believe earning a doctoral degree is a journey and similar to climbing a mountain—challenging, invigorating and completely rewarding when you reach the top. Our goal is to help you conquer your own mountain and succeed on your doctoral journey. Readers of The Doctoral Journey blog, presented by the College of Doctoral Studies, will find resourceful and knowledgeable posts regarding the doctoral process, research best practices and dissertation tips among other topics from GCU’s doctoral faculty.

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