Research Approval

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In an effort to reduce survey and research fatigue, studies involving the solicitation of Illinois students are to be registered through the Student Affairs Research Approval (SARA) process. The primary goal is to ensure a student does not receive more than three research solicitations per academic semester. Additionally, Student Affairs wants to ensure the well-being of students by reviewing research instruments for distressing or illegal activities and ensuring proper referrals are made available.

Submit SARA Here

What needs SARA Approval?

If any of the following conditions apply, a SARA application must be submitted:

  • Survey or research study will involve students to whom researcher does not provide direct services or instruction
  • A researcher is requesting a survey sample of students through DMI’s sampling service:
  • If the research study will be shared off-campus via publication, presentation etc.
  • Researcher does not have an academic appointment at Illinois

Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval may be required for any of the above conditions, please consult with the Office of the Protection of Research Subjects for guidance.

What does not need to go through the SARA Process?

  • Program evaluation and marketing surveys sent to students who the sender provides direct services/instruction (e.g. LAS can send to LAS students, Career Center can send to students who attend Career Counseling) AND the information will be used for internal purposes only.
  • Routine end of the semester class evaluations
  • Surveys sent to members of a voluntary email list (e.g. a list that students can opt in and out of)
  • Electronic collections of information required for employment or matriculation
  • Subject pool participants for class credit
  • Electronic communications between faculty and students
  • A survey/study of Illinois faculty/staff. Contact Senior Associate Chancellor for Human Resources, Deborah Stone for permission.

If you are unclear if your survey/study should go through the SARA process, please contact Dr. Beth Hoag at IRB approval may be required for any of the above conditions, please consult with the Office of the Protection of Research Subjects for guidance.

What policies and practices should I be aware of before submitting?

  • Complete populations of any subgroup(s) are not approved. For example, if you are looking to survey international graduate students, we will not approval a full sample of international graduate students. Please consult DMI’s Student Enrollment for current enrollment numbers of your proposed population.
  • Students cannot be solicited to participate in a research project the week before or the week of finals unless it is a course requirement per Illinois Faculty Senate Policy (pdf).
    • SARA Process: No Survey Periods
      • Fall 2021: December 3-17, 2021
      • Spring 2022: April 29-May 13, 2022
    • Due to this requirement SARA applications for studies being conducted in the current academic semester must be submitted a month prior to the No Survey Period (e.g. April 3, 2021) to allow for SARA Approval and if needed DMI processing time.
  • Non-Illinois research projects are limited to three per semester.
    • Requests from non-University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers will be considered on a first-come first-served basis and whether they duplicate, seriously conflict, or in competition with other surveys also being conducted by university administration or Illinois faculty.
    • Documentation of IRB approval or exemption from their home campus will be required
  • SARA and DMI limits the number of emails to students per survey to 1 initial email and 2 follow-up email reminders.
  • SARA approval must be obtained prior to requesting a sample from the Division of Management Information. The Division of Information Management charges for creating lists of students or faculty/staff. See their website for details at
  • Samples are limited to 5,000 students or 60% of a desired population.

How does SARA differ from IRB?

SARA is a separate process from IRB. IRB serves an important role in protecting the rights and welfare of human research subjects and ensuring studies meet federal guidelines. The SARA process is focused on protecting Illinois students from excessive unsolicited emails in research studies, and in turn helping to address survey fatigue among our student body. IRB approval does not guarantee SARA approval. A SARA application should be submitted after you have received IRB approval, however you are welcome to contact Dr. Beth Hoag prior to submitting an IRB to discuss your project and intended sample.

How long does the process take? What happens after I submit a SARA Application?

All applications will be reviewed within 5-7 business days. The Director of Assessment & Planning may reach out with additional follow up questions or to discuss alternative administration timelines or to discuss the available sample for the population you requested.

How many students can I survey?

When determining the specific size of the sample we take into account your preferences, the size of the total population you are requesting, and if that population has been solicited for other studies this semester. Samples of more than 5,000 students or 60% of a population are rarely granted. Samples of this size are typically reserved for institutional surveys where the data is being used to guide institutional decision making and results are made available to relevant campus stakeholders (e.g. Illini Success, Chancellor's Senior Survey, NSSE, Campus Climate Surveys, COVID-testing survey, SERU Graduate Survey). Any request over this limit would need approval from the Chancellor, Provost, or a Vice-Chancellor.

Why would my SARA application be denied?

We are committed to working with researchers to negotiate research study administration times, and the number of participants solicited. If an accommodation cannot be reached a SARA application will be denied. SARA approval will not be granted if one of the following conditions exist.

  • Three research projects already target a specific student subpopulation and the numbers targeted for these solicitations equal the total number of individuals in the subpopulation.
  • A project is similar to previously approved studies in the previous or current semester and it targets the same subpopulation of students.
  • If the undergraduate or graduate students in your proposed sample are already slated to receive 3 research solicitations in one semester.
  • University administration plans a substantial study that is similar or has overlapping student populations to a study seeking Student Affairs Research Approval.
  • The timing of the administration is the week of or before finals. (In this case we will work with you to find an alternative date).
  • Any research with the primary purpose of marketing to students for a profit.

Priorities set by campus administration take precedent over any research studies and all Student Affairs Research Approval policies.

The SARA Process is overseen by Dr. Beth Hoag, Director of Assessment and Planning, Student Affairs.

Submit SARA Here

Policy was last reviewed and approved by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs – 12/02/2020

Policy was last reviewed and approved by Assistant Provost for Management Information – 12/15/2020

Policy was last reviewed and approved by Human Subjects Review Senior Manager – 12/14/2020