This week on the TFA for Journalists team we tackled the Institutional Review Board process. The IRB reviews university research to make sure human subjects are treated ethically.

While the IRB’s questions can take a long time to answer, they also encouraged our team to define our project. We had to make specific scripts, questionnaires and lists of potential interviewees. By looking into what is desirable to our audience – through these IRB questions – we were able to tailor our vague idea.

Our team decided to interview 100 journalism students about their postgraduate plans and aspirations in order to structure a program that would be appealing to students. We know we need to gather information from real students from many different universities because the program would need to appeal to students across the country. We decided to recruit students to take the survey through established journalism programs by contacting professors who teach community journalism classes.

We also decided that we would need to talk to people who have participated in similar fellowships like TFA and Venture for America to figure out why these programs are so successful.  Another category of survey participants will be journalism graduates who pursued fellowship programs after graduation.

Filling out these details challenged my team to think like formal researchers. We had to ponder the potential risks for our survey participants and think about the most ethical way to recruit participants. The IRB and its detailed process encouraged my team to shift the dialogue from free-form brainstorming to structured study. I look forward to the next week as we contact professionals in the community journalism field and wait for the IRB to review our hard work.


How might we meet the information needs of communities?

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