Research Policies

(This document is primarily addressed to student members of the Department of Second Language Studies.)

Please register the fact that it will take time to complete the various steps outlined below. Research that is conceptualized hastily and conducted in a rush is unlikely to produce a satisfactory outcome, and is most likely to make an institution less willing to grant access in the future. In schools, it may leave teachers and students with a negative attitude to research in general. Tact, courtesy, and sensitivity are always necessary, regardless of the kind of research envisaged.

If your research will involve observing HELP classes, please also read our Guidelines and Etiquette for Observers of HELP Classes.

Policies regarding approval to conduct research at HELP or to solicit student volunteers from HELP classes

  1. Obtain a copy of the current HELP research agenda. This is a list of research topics that the HELP staff would like to see pursued, to assist us with developing our program, solving problems and clarifying issues, or investigating areas we would like to know more about. This is what we call “in-house programmatic research.”  HELP can assist with other research topics and issues, of course, but at the same time we naturally want to encourage, and will give priority to, research on our own program needs and concerns.
  2. After you’ve worked out your study with your advisor/professor, develop a research proposal, which describes the topic and how you want to carry out the research. This should include the following:
    • A brief description of your study and the purpose for which the study is being used (a course paper,a Scholarly Paper, etc.).
    • A brief description of the methodology you will use
    • A timeline for your study: projected start and end dates, and dates for each of the key steps
    • Examples of any instruments you will use (if applicable)
    • Information about what kind of access to HELP students your study requires (either access to specific HELP classes or access to student volunteers – see below for more information).
    • A handout designed to attract students to participate in your study.
    • A copy of the request for permission to be sent to HELP teachers (if applicable – see Item 5 below).
    • A copy of the consent form(s) you intend to use.
    • Advising professor approval verifying that the design, instruments, and handouts meet with her/his approval (see below for more information)
  3. Submit your proposal to the HELP Director or Assistant Director, either as a hard copy or by email. (If you submit your proposal via email, ask your advising professor to send an accompanying email message verifying their approval of all items mentioned above). Your proposal may be passed to HELP teachers and other staff for review and comments. If we see any problems with the design of your study, or its effect on HELP or its students, we will send you back to your advisor for help in reformulating the proposal.
  4. The HELP Director or Assistant Director may request an in-person meeting with you to clarify aspects of your research proposal. After your study has been approved by HELP, you can proceed with getting approval from the human subjects committee, if need be. Check with your advisor/professor about whether or not your study needs the approval of the human subjects committee. If your study is exempted from human subjects approval, you merely need to let us know (an email message, with a ‘cc’ to your advisor/professor, will suffice). However, if your study requires the approval of the human subjects committee, you will have to wait until you get their approval before you will be able to approach HELP teachers or students. You do not need to make a copy of their approval for HELP, but you do need to show the approval letter to the HELP Director or Assistant Director. (Note, however, that you do not have to get approval from human subjects prior to submitting your proposal to HELP. It makes more sense to get your study reviewed and approved first by your advisor/professor and HELP before you go to all the trouble of filling out the human subjects paperwork.)
  5. Obtain approval of any HELP teacher you hope to involve in your study. a) If you will be conducting involving any HELP classes, it is also necessary to get permission of the teachers of those classes. Requests for teacher approval are usually 1-2 paragraphs, briefly describing the aims of the study and how the classes will be used. b) If you will be using HELP class time to solicit HELP student volunteers, you will need to provide the teacher with a brief description of your study (usually 1 paragraph) and copies of the handout for soliciting volunteers. (Note that, even if the HELP administration approves a project, individual teachers have the right to refuse to participate or to have their class participate in a study, if they feel it interferes with instruction or the aims of the course.)

Policies related to writing your paper

    1. Read previous studies of research done at HELP, if available.
    2. Check the HELP website, calendar, and current course schedule (or other relevant documents) for up-to-date factual information about policies, courses, etc. related to HELP.
    3. Double-check all “facts” about HELP with the Director or Assistant Director before you finish and submit your paper. (Note: If we find that you misrepresented the program, we will ask you to re-do your paper with the corrected information.)
    4. If your research was done in specific HELP classes, or involving specific teachers, give those teachers the opportunity to review and comment on your paper (or at least those parts of your paper that relate to their class, their teaching, etc.) to ensure that you are representing the teacher and the class fairly and accurately. (Again, if we find that you misrepresented the teacher or the class, we will ask you to re-do your paper with the corrected information.)

Access to HELP classes, test data, or students

Access to HELP classes and HELP test data will only be possible if the study meshes with HELP needs. Check the HELP research agenda to see what kinds of research the program would like to have done.

Access to student volunteers is the most common type of access granted. If you need to do this, you should draft a one-page handout that is addressed to potential volunteers, at a level that is easily understandable for the students being solicited. The handout should explain what you need the students to volunteer for (in general terms), where data gathering procedures will take place, how long it will take, what language insights HELP students can gain from participating, how volunteers can contact you, and what compensation they will receive (generally at least in the form of some type of instructional feedback related to the study, or occasionally some type of compensation like movie tickets, restaurant coupons, tutoring, or proofreading help if the demands on participants are great).  Remember, the professor advising your study must approve your handout.

      (Note: This applies even to HELP staff conducting research.)

Approval of your advising professor

HELP does not have time to help researchers edit their instruments, handouts, or consent forms. This means that you will need to get advice and editing help from the professor advising your study. It is our hope that this requirement will help ensure that your study gets approved by HELP more quickly. Copy and paste the following information into a “statement of verification” that your advising professor will sign (or send via email):

I have seen and approved [student's name]‘s proposal for research at HELP, including the research design, instruments (if any), volunteer handouts, and consent forms to be used in this study.


Student’s Name:

Advising Professor’s Name:

Advising Professor’s Signature

Courtesy copies of your paper

After you write up your research, please provide HELP with one hard copy and one electronic copy of your paper. Please send us the electronic/digital copy as an email attachment. We may post a .pdf version of your paper on our website so it can be accessible to other researchers and to HELP staff. Thus, unless we receive a request from you specifically not to make it available on our website, we will assume that you have given your consent.

Updated 2/11/11