Rhetorical Strategies for Working with Institutional Review Boards

Elizabeth L. Angeli and Z. Koppelmann

Computers and Composition Online


Theoretical Framework: Individual Action

As part of the call to action, we provide our readers with strategies and actions they might utilize while undergoing the IRB review process by providing narratives of our experiences. In “Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change,” James Porter, Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey Grabill, and Libby Miles propose a methodology of “institutional critique” that “insists that institutions, as unchangeable as they may seem (and, indeed, often are,), do contain spaces for reflection, resistance, revision, and productive action” (613). They claim that by using this method individuals “can rewrite institutions through rhetorical action” and “rhetorical strategies” (613, 616). Because rewriting the IRB as an institution might occur in the future through improved communicative relations with the non-science and non-social science fields, our goal is to provide rhetorical strategies allow readers to start rewriting how they interact with their institution’s IRB.

Using narratives, we discuss some best practices from the research approval process used at other institutions, which are informed by our own experiences working with multiple IRBs. Our accounts are informed by Brenton Faber’s Community Action and Organizational Change: Image, Narrative, Identity when Faber writes, “change itself is a story, and stories are acts of change” (21). Our intent is that these narratives will help raise awareness of an IRB’s role in the approval process and help RC researchers move closer to working efficiently and effectively with their IRBs.