Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Planning to use crowdsourcing for your research study? Here are a few tips.

You’ve decided that you are going to recruit your participants using crowdsourcing. As a student, you may not know much about it, but you figure that it shouldn’t really be difficult to pull off. You’ve considered using Amazon MTurk, but wonder if there are other sources to consider. You have a (limited) budget and want to use it to pay eligible participants for your study. Your faculty advisor isn’t familiar with it, or has little to no knowledge about how it works. You feel this will be the best and easiest way to go about this process, and time is passing each day you delay. What do you do?

Where do I start?
  1. Speak with your advisor about your interest and options. The IRB has found that when student researchers include their faculty advisors and mentors in their plans and gauge their level of knowledge or interest in their plans, the student has a much better chance to carry out those plans successfully.  if your faculty advisor is not knowledgeable about crowdsourcing, there are other faculty who are. Reach out to them with your faculty advisor, so that you both learn about the process together. The IRB  can refer you to faculty who have used this recruitment process numerous times.  If for some reason you are unable to speak with your faculty advisor in earnest about this, then consider another person to fill that role. If you wait too long for them to get back to you, then you risk putting yourself in a situation that can be avoided by working with a more responsive faculty advisor.
  2. Take the time to read more about it to make sure that this is what you really want to do. Here is an article that can jumpstart your research. A beginner’s guide to crowdsourcing (1)  includes some useful information, links and references.
How do I fill out your IRB application?
  1. Once you click on the link to IRBManager, the online submission system, use the information provided in the area of this blog titled, “application checklist”.
  2. When discussing your plans to recruit your participants in your IRB application, keep in mind that the IRB is concerned about what the recruitment process will look like from the perspective of your participants. The IRB wants to know how you will reach them, what they will learn about the project and whether they will be compensated for their participation. The IRB will flag any studies that don’t clarify these three points. The IRB needs make sure that your study provides everyone the same opportunity to participate (unless you have some reason to exclude people based on your research aims). that no one is unduly influenced by your study, and that compensation is reasonable in relationship to their time and effort contributed to the study.
    1. If you are are planning to recruit participants using crowdsourcing, state this outright.
    2. Once you’ve established that crowdsourcing will be used, explain which tool will be used (Amazon MTurk, Prolific, Qualtrics, SONA). Each tool has very different processes for how end users are selected and engaged in your study. Know the differences and be prepared to discuss the relevant choice to the IRB. Will they be paid an estimated amount based on the anticipated time it will take to fill out the survey? Are there specific guidelines specified by the crowdsourcing platform that inform your decision? If so, what are they? What is the form of compensation? Will they have to complete the survey to receive payment?
    3. DO NOT use a third party system different from the crowdsourcing platform to carry out any part of the study. Keep the consent form, study materials and any additional information relevant to participants within the crowdsourcing platform. To make a different choice will cause problems that may compromise the anonymity of your study and complicate the process for participants, which can show up as harm depending on what occurs. And finally, this will cause problems for you and delay the time it takes for you to complete your research.

Have additional questions? Contact the IRB Office at x2449 or


dsomerville • August 19, 2020

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar