Navigating the IRB: A Few Quick Tips on the Submission Form

eRIA is the system the IRB uses!

Independent research at Princeton has given several students the opportunity to conduct exciting new studies, including traveling to other countries in order to get first-hand experience engaging in other cultures. Just a few months ago, I even flew out to Los Angeles to interview television producers for my thesis. While the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their life-stories is undoubtedly a transformative experience, these types of projects wouldn’t be possible without one particular group’s approval: the IRB.

To conduct any research that involves human subjects, Princeton’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) has to review your study in order to ensure the safety of the participants. For instance, if a study involves at-risk individuals (e.g. children or prisoners) the IRB will need to check the parameters of the study in order to make sure no one gets hurt or feels coerced into participating. But with 15 sections worth of information to fill out, the IRB form can be quite intimidating to go through–it even scared me away from including human subjects in my junior paper! But after some encouragement from my adviser, I partnered with a fellow SOC major and worked through the seemingly endless document. 

Having completed the process, here are a few tips that I think will make the form easier to navigate:

Continue reading Navigating the IRB: A Few Quick Tips on the Submission Form

Escaping the Orange Bubble Without Leaving Campus

I made a goal this year to take more time to relax and gain new perspectives outside of campus. This means different things for different people. For me, it entails jumping on opportunities to step away from the insulation and pressures of Princeton. As much as I love going to NYC and Philly for daycations, SEPTA and NJ Transit costs add up, both in time and money.

Astronomy is a science-y but accessible hobby!

Instead, I’ve been actively looking for alternative ways to escape campus, without ever setting foot off of it. Let me explain.

Since I study French and International Relations, my schedule is packed with humanities and social sciences classes. This leaves little room for natural science courses. Therein lies a problem—I’ve had a passion for space since I was a kid. But I don’t have the room in my schedule or the prerequisite knowledge necessary to take an astrophysics course. Solution: I bought several books to feed my curiosity. Reading about astronomy allows me to momentarily escape the limits of my Princeton schedule while cultivating a longtime personal interest.

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My Lesson in Research Rehearsal

After eight amazing weeks in Europe, I’m back in the U.S. and just starting to process my time abroad. Interning at the European Roma Rights Centre taught me so much about Roma people and the systematic racism many of them face. I also learned about efforts to combat this racism through litigation and advocacy. I greatly value the knowledge I gained through this experience — and now, as I prepare for another year of research at Princeton, I’m also thinking about the process behind the knowledge. Some of the most useful and thought-provoking lessons from my time abroad concerned how to effectively prepare for field research.

Here I am in Belgrade, Serbia with the other conference participants, all of whom work with organizations that research statelessness in Central and Eastern Europe.

During my second-to-last week in Budapest, I went with four colleagues to a conference in Belgrade, Serbia. The three-day conference functioned as a training workshop to prepare seven organizations to conduct field research on stateless Roma (Roma individuals who aren’t legally affiliated with any nation.) These organizations were based in countries all throughout Eastern Europe and the West Balkans, where statelessness is a particularly significant issue among Roma populations. The ERRC led the workshop — and I got to play a role in the research trainings. Continue reading My Lesson in Research Rehearsal

Exploring Thesis Resources: What MTurk Is (And Isn’t)

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MTurk is a great way to collect data from human subjects!

Mechanical Turk, more commonly known as “MTurk”, is a popular site created by Amazon to help researchers collect data from human subjects. As a student who had never heard of this site before starting my thesis, I’ve decided to share my knowledge about what the site is and how it can be helpful for independent research at Princeton.

What exactly is MTurk?

MTurk is basically a marketplace where researchers can upload various tasks and have other people complete them for money. These tasks range from having people take a survey to having people grade responses or transcribe segments of text. Basically, anything that someone can do on a computer can be turned into a task on MTurk.

Continue reading Exploring Thesis Resources: What MTurk Is (And Isn’t)

Resources for Researchers Choosing Summer Programs

No matter how you look at it, spring semester is about making choices. The first few weeks involve choosing which classes to switch into (or, less happily, out of). The next few months will see sophomores choosing their major, and seniors choosing the direction of their post-graduation lives. Of course, there is one other choice embedded in this half of the year: what internship/program/job each of us will do over the summer.

So many resources, so little time…

Since most summer opportunities require some level of research skills, PCUR wanted to help you decide what kind of researcher you’d like to be between May and August (and possibly beyond). We created Resources for Researchers to point you in the right direction. Our new page – which you’ll also find in our menu bar – includes where to look for research programs, who to contact, and how to get funding. We’ve surveyed Princeton-sponsored opportunities as well as those from outside organizations. Whether you’re interested in science, engineering, health, government, policy, humanities, arts, or culture, there’s some useful information waiting for your perusal.

A final note: Resources for Researchers is not exclusively devoted to summer programs. It also covers fall-spring research opportunities and independently-designed projects. So, no matter what kind of researcher you’d like to be, take a look at the Resources available here – and make whatever choice feels right for you.

— Melissa Parnagian, Chief Correspondent 

The Importance of Being Vocal: Student Feedback at Princeton

Suggestions and feedback are an extremely important part of the University’s growth! Have you ever noticed this suggestions box by the Welcome Desk in Frist? 

With Princeton ranked as the No. 1 school in America, it’s easy to assume that everything here is the best that it can be: We have great professors, amazing resources, and will graduate with a degree that is highly esteemed around the world. Surrounded by all of the University’s accolades, we oftentimes forget how important the student voice is to the University’s growth and development. Over these past few weeks, however, I’ve discovered how integral students are to improving academic and social life here on campus.

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A Fall Break to Remember: Site-Specific Research in Detroit’s Artist Community

On the last Friday before fall break, as each of my friends packed up their belongings and boarded New Jersey Transit to head home for the week, I found myself preparing for an entirely different experience. One of the courses I am taking, a seminar called The Arts of Urban Transition, took a five-day-long field trip to Detroit over break as part of an interdisciplinary urban studies program at Princeton. This program, entitled the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities, is a three-year project that allows students to examine these areas of study through project-based interdisciplinary courses. My class focuses on the roles of art and artists in urban environments undergoing change. Detroit has been a major focal point in the curriculum, which is why I found myself boarding a plane headed to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

One of the sites our class visited was a metalworking studio run by a German African American artist out of his own home. The glorious bus pictured here was our primary means of transportation while in Detroit.

Continue reading A Fall Break to Remember: Site-Specific Research in Detroit’s Artist Community

Correspondent Convos: What is your best research advice?

Correspondent_Convos_IconJust because it’s called “independent work” doesn’t mean that you’re alone. PCUR knows we’ve reached a very research-heavy time of the semester, and we have some words of wisdom for anyone tackling a new project – whether it’s your first or fifteenth at the college level. Watch below to hear our advice; and remember, if you have a specific question, we’re never more than a contact us form away.

— Melissa Parnagian, Chief Correspondent

The Project That Made Me a Researcher: (No?) Lab Coat Required

Over the course of the semester, PCURs will explain how they found their place in research. We present these to you as a series called The Project That Made Me a Researcher. As any undergraduate knows, the transition from ‘doing a research project’ to thinking of yourself as a researcher is an exciting and highly individualized phenomenon. Here, Jalisha shares her story.


Tons of research is conducted in the Psychology/Neuroscience building, but you seldomly see anyone wearing a lab coat!
Tons of research is conducted in the Psychology/Neuroscience building, but you seldom see anyone wearing a lab coat!

White lab coats. As a freshman in high school, I believed these to be the quintessential markings of a true researcher. My transition into the world of research, then, occurred during the summer after my first year of high school, when I wore my very own lab coat for the first time.

That summer, I participated in the Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program, a program charged with the mission of encouraging young minorities to pursue careers in STEM fields. I was assigned to work with a microbiology professor in her lab, where I would assist with research on the presence of harmful bacteria in store-bought lunchmeat. I had nothing more than my high school biology experience for credentials, but with my white lab coat on, I felt prepared for anything. Continue reading The Project That Made Me a Researcher: (No?) Lab Coat Required

Correspondent Convos: What are your research challenges?

Correspondent_Convos_IconYou’ve probably heard that research is more of a marathon than a sprint. That’s definitely true — Every independent project involves thorough planning and lots of stamina.  But since we’re on the subject of analogies, it’s also true that research is an obstacle course.  Think about it: There are challenges built into the research process, and sometimes they’re impossible to avoid.  PCUR gets real about these roadblocks in our second Correspondent Convo.  Watch below to learn which struggles are most common, and which strategies can help you reach the finish line.

— Melissa Parnagian, Chief Correspondent