Rhetorical Strategies for Working with Institutional Review Boards

Elizabeth L. Angeli and Z. Koppelmann

Computers and Composition Online


Challenges RC Research Poses to the IRB Review Process: Ethics in Composition Research

McKee discusses the ethical dimensions of the remixed nature of composition in terms of representing research in an IRB review process. However, ethics plays a key role throughout a research project’s duration. Ellen Barton explores ethics’ role in “decision-making interactions” in the language of recruitment material for two biological and biomedical studies (599). She discusses “ethics work” involved in working with IRBs and producing ethical research documents. For example, she writes, “Consistency is a major issue in IRB review since it has to cover research from biomedicine to behavioral studies . . . ,” and that consistency is a major issue in working with IRBs (622). A university’s IRB balances many contexts and concerns when reviewing proposals; therefore, Barton calls researchers to “see what we [as RC researchers] have to contribute” to the IRB (624). This call is especially important in light of Johnson-Eilola and Selber’s and McKee’s work on the dynamic nature of composition pedagogy and research.

We extend and respond to Barton’s call by proposing strategies researchers might use in order to work with their IRBs. As Barton states and as we, and perhaps many of you, have experienced working with IRBs, RC research methods and language differ from those many IRBs are most familiar with because most IRBs originally were concerned with approving medical and social science experiments and protecting the human subjects involved in these experiments. Most IRBs view and review RC research as social science research; however, RC researchers seldom engage in social science methods, such as the experimental method. RC methods tend to be more collaborative with research participants, especially when these participants are current or former students. Researchers, therefore, should prepare to work with IRBs, learn how to best complete a specific IRB application process, and work to inform board members of the challenges and considerations researchers encounter while conducting RC research in fluid and dynamic settings, such as the classroom. Working to comply with institutional and CCCC guidelines, researchers should aim to create an “ethic of excellence.” This ethic might allow researchers to produce research and be aware its effects, benefits, and risks, a level of awareness researchers need when engaging in the IRB review process.