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irb redesign This project is about taking a really dense and detailed

form and simplifying it. The form is used to ensure that all human subjects in research are protected. It is long and redundant and hard for researchers to fill out. We reorganized and essentially redesigned it.

feb 2013 sahana kumar


brainstorming The IRB is not an easy thing to approach. I started by looking at the original purpose of the form, the the context in which it is used. I determined that the form was used mainly by the IRB to ensure that no boundaries are crossed and that human subjects remain safe. That means that the researchers must be detailed and hit every point, but the form should be approachable and helpful, as the researcher is the one filling it out. There must be a balance between the researchers needs and the IRB’s needs. I also looked at other forms that I have experienced that I found to be daunting, like the Common App, just to look at how they split up questions and how they phrase them.


brainstorming cntd I started off by cutting the IRB up into its sections and identifying the simplest summary of the questions they asked. That is how I came to “Who am I?” “What am I doing?” I also rearranged sections at this time. My strategy involved creating a storyline kind of the way a conversation about the IRB would go. It would start off asking the researcher who they are, who they’re working with, what their project is about, etc. Then it would delve into more detailed questions - which the IRB is more interested in for THEIR purposes. We wouldn’t get there till later in the form so that the researcher would feel more comfortable at that point. My final order was: About the P.I, About Co-Investigators, Protocol: What, Where, How, Consent, Benefits and Risks, Compensation, Co-operating institutions, Conflict of Interest, Confidentiality and Data Security, Funding, and Assurance statement.


brainstorming cntd My next step was to dissect each section and identify the parts of each question. I discovered that the form is literally full of conditional questions. This, in my opinion, is what made the form so hard to comprehend. I identified all of the conditional parts of questions as I went through, and shifted some questions around if I thought it was appropriate. My biggest concern were the conditionals. I knew that I wanted to find a new way to approach them to simplify the experience for researchers.


iteration 1 description My first draft involved a three column grid. This proved to be a problem later. I introduced my attempt at tackling conditionals: boxes. The title of the box is the question, and the inside content only applies to those who answer the question. I wanted the box to be a boundary that the reader would not even have to cross if the question did not apply to them. My font choice was meant to be clear and no nonsense while my language was direct and friendly.

reflection I have a tendency to make things huge and dense. I definitely made that mistake here. My type was big and my type input rectanges were bigger. The entire form was too heavy and dark, and my first change was to zlighten up everything.


iteration 2 I shrunk my text size for this iteration and delved further into the form, dealing with more complicated parts of the form. I still was misusing the grid, and the path was ambiguous.

iteration 3 I shrunk my text and moved my margins in, but I did not include enough space for text. Also, I still had problems with determining the order of the questions. I approached the issue of conditionals within conditionals. Visually, it was slightly confusing to have boxes within boxes.


iteration 4 I shrunk certain elements and tried to move things around, and added more space for the questions that needed longer responses. Also, in this version, I eliminated boxes within conditionals as an experiment. Faced issues with the last page’s huge amounts of text.


final In my final, I made some major changes. I drastically simplified the layout by trying to use mainly the first two columns. I included letters to indicate which order people should read in. I moved conditional questions within their box so as to reduce confusion about what they were referring to. All in all, my changes were to fix things I had done wtihout considering the user. Getting feedback from people who did not see my form too often was helpful because I could not ignore the recurring confusing issues. Although I still have issues that I brought upon myself with the three column grid, I am happy with how my form turned out. I think it is useful and friendly to researchers, while also being thorough and collecting enough information for the IRB.

Sahana kumar irb process  
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