Working With Human Subjects

Interview-Based Study H-100

Female Adjunct Faculty: A Feminist Examination of Working Conditions for Instructors of Composition in Local and National Contexts


1. PURPOSE, METHODS, AND PROCEDURES: Describe the following:

The goal of this study is to determine the challenges women face as instructors of composition. This topic is of particular relevance to women because they compose a disproportionate number of instructors of composition in English departments both locally and nationally. We will examine the dynamics of composition instructor work conditions for women in the local context (the Colorado State University English department) in relation to composition instructor work conditions as they are discussed theoretically and in national contexts.

  1. Purpose (will be used in assessing the risk/benefit ratio for subjects. The hypothesis to be tested may be listed.)
  2. Research methods and procedures of the study. (It is OK to diagram complex designs. Please include information on the time commitment required for each activity.)

    In an effort to understand the subjective experiences of those who have worked as or interacted with composition instructors, we will conduct interviews lasting approximately 45 minutes each with female composition instructors and writing program administrators (WPAs) at CSU. The interviews for this project will consist of close- and open-ended questions that ask interviewees to reflect on the working conditions and relationships experienced by instructors in their English departments. The questions will also ask informants to share their opinions about the influences of gender on career choices and working conditions and relationships.

    The interview questions will be posed in an unbiased and non-inflammatory manner in an effort to be sympathetic to what potentially may be a highly sensitive subject with faculty and administrators alike, but as Wendy Bishop points out, qualitative researchers always undertake social negotiations when they are working with human subjects (71). To maintain anonymity, each participant will choose a pseudonym before his or her interview begins. Any information obtained during the interviews will by kept confidential: Tapes and transcripts will be coded using the corresponding interviewee’s pseudonym. I will permit informants to see final drafts of any transcripts or analysis to assure them anonymity and accurate representation.

    The interviews will be structured and largely scripted to avoid digressions and variations in data. However, I will include probing questions and comments when necessary for clarification. Interviews will be conducted in the offices of the subjects.

  3. Variables to be studied (what is being measured or examined).

    We will be examining the comments of the interviewees to learn about their experiences working with or working as female instructors of composition. We will study their opinions about the challenges met by female instructors of composition at CSU and in universities nationally.

  4. Describe equipment used with subjects, if any.

    A tape recorder will be the only equipment used with subjects. The tape recorder will record all of the conversation during each interview unless an interviewee asks to speak off the record, in which case the recorder will be turned off.

  5. How will subject confidentiality or anonymity be maintained? If a linked list is used, list when it will be destroyed. Provide a sample of the code that will be used.

    To maintain anonymity, all interviewees will choose a pseudonym before the official interview begins; the interviewees will be referred to by the pseudonym throughout all areas of the research study, including in transcripts, on tapes, and in analysis and publication. To maintain confidentiality, all data, including transcripts and tapes, will be coded with the pseudonym and kept in a locked box in Dr. Lisa Langstraat’s office. Dr. Langstraat is the advisor of the co-investigator and an associate professor in the CSU English department.

  6. Describe the consent process and method of consent to be used. (signed consent, cover letter, other)

    After each participant agrees via email with Ms. Boyle to participate in an interview, but before the interview takes place, Dr. Kathleen Kiefer, the principal investigator, will present each subject with a copy of the consent form to read and sign. There will be a separate consent form for instructors and administrators. Dr. Kiefer will give a copy of the consent form to each participant to keep, and she will maintain the signed consent form so that in the event that a subject feels his or her rights are violated during the interview, he or she may discuss with Dr. Kiefer appropriate action.

  7. How will research records be maintained during and upon completion of the project? (This may include audio or videotapes). Indicate when the records and/or tapes will be destroyed. Federal Regulations require that study data and consent documents be kept for a minimum of 3 years after the completion of the study by the PI; for longitudinal projects, a longer period may be needed.

    The records, including all tapes and transcripts, will be kept in a locked drawer in Dr. Langstraat’s office during and after the study. Dr. Langstraat will destroy the data from the interviews three years from the date that the last interview occurred.

  8. Address how you will monitor this study to ensure that the study is being conducted according to the protocol.

    Ms. Boyle will meet on a bi-weekly basis with Dr. Kiefer and Dr. Langstraat to discuss the progression of the study. Dr. Kiefer will randomly listen to and read the tapes and transcripts of the interviews to ensure that Ms. Boyle is conducting the interviews according to the protocol.

  9. Is a Data Safety Monitoring Board required to conduct such monitoring?

    No, the Data Safety Monitoring Board is not required to conduct such monitoring.

2. SUBJECT SELECTION: Indicate the following (this section must also be completed for secondary data analysis):

  1. How will subjects be recruited and where will the recruitment take place? (submit recruitment material)

    We will choose potential subjects and ask them to participate (rather than select subjects randomly) so that we may get a cross-section of the CSU English department instructor population based on the amount of experience each subject has working as an instructor of composition at CSU. Ms. Boyle will send an email message to potential subjects soliciting their participation. She will interview instructors of composition who have worked at CSU for 1-2, 3-5, 5-7, 7-10, and 10-15 years. The administrative interviewees will have no less than 10 years of experience working at CSU as WPAs.

  2. If secondary data analysis is being conducted, please describe the original consent procedures.

    No secondary data analysis will be conducted.

  3. What are the characteristics of the subject population? (age, gender, student, disease conditions, behavioral abnormalities; affiliations or memberships)

    The instructors will be all female, ranging in ages 25-55. The instructors will vary in experience teaching as instructors from one to 15 years. The administrators will be both male and female, ranging in ages 35-55. They will have significant experience working with instructors of composition at CSU. The instructors and the administrators will have memberships with various professional English and composition groups, including the National Council of Teachers of English.

  4. How many subjects do you plan to study?

    We plan to study seven subjects: five female instructors of composition from the CSU English department and two administrators from the CSU English department.

  5. Address the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Federal regulations consider minors, pregnant women and prisoners vulnerable populations that require added protection. When vulnerable populations are involved, describe why they are necessary. Excluding any group, i.e., minors, elderly, gender, ethnic minorities, must be clearly justified and inconvenience can’t be the reason. For example, if minors are in a classroom where recruitment will take place, parental permission must be obtained or justification must be made to exclude the minors.

    No vulnerable populations will be included in this study. Criteria for inclusion: Instructors will be invited to participate in the study if they would be a representative in a cross-section of the instructors of composition in the English department based on the amount of experience they have working as an instructor of composition at CSU. Criteria for exclusion: If instructors are not considered a representative of the cross-section of the instructors in the department in terms of experience as an adjunct in composition, they will not be invited to participate. Because the situation in the local context reflects the national trend of a disproportionate population of women serving as instructors of composition, we feel that a focus on exclusively women will render more results; consequently, men will be excluded from instructor interviews. However, we will invite male administrators to participate in the study because these participants will not be asked to reflect on their own experiences as instructors if they have such experience—they will be asked to reflect on the conditions of instructors in the department and nationally.

  6. Will subjects be compensated for participation? If so, please describe the proposed compensation.

    Subjects will not be compensated for participation. We feel that the 45-minute length of each interview does not warrant compensation and that monetary or material gifts could be misconstrued as bribery or coercion considering the short time period the interview will take.

  7. Criteria for excluding participants involuntarily (such as “failed to keep food diary as required”)

    Participants will not be excluded involuntarily.

  8. Letters of agreement/approval from the organizations that will be recruiting subjects for the project will be needed. Such letters need to be initiated by the organization, on organization letterhead, and signed by a person authorized to do so. The letters need to include statements a) that the organization is familiar with the scope of the project, b) that it is satisfied the individuals it is involving are adequately protected as human research subjects, c) that the subjects’ participation is completely voluntary, and d) identify what the organization’s involvement will entail.

    No organizations will be involved in recruiting subjects for the project.


  1. Describe any potential risks to subjects and assess the likelihood and seriousness of those risks. (If there are no known risks, state as such, but do NOT respond “NA”.) These could include: physical, psychological trauma or stress, legal, social, economic, loss of confidentiality.

    The loss of anonymity and/or confidentiality is the only risk known to subjects. Breaches in anonymity or confidentiality are serious and could negatively affect professional relationships interviewees share with instructors and professors in the English department and in other areas of the university. Loss of anonymity or confidentiality is possible, but the likelihood is low: The primary investigator, co-investigator, and advisor of the co-investigator will keep information private at all costs. We have outlined specific procedures (described below) that will ensure we maintain all information from subjects private.

  2. Please describe the proposed methods to minimize the risks and discomforts associated with the research. For example, document how potential psychological distress will be addressed, by whom, and with what credentials (provide letter of agreement from counselor explaining their role – this must be someone other than the researchers on the project) Specify what factors will lead to stopping procedures causing physical or emotional stress.

    Please see section D below for comments about minimizing the risk involved in this study.

  3. If the methods of research create potential risks, describe other methods, if any, that were considered and why they will not be used.

    There were no other methods considered.

  4. Address procedures for maintaining confidentiality if a breach of confidentiality represents a risk.

    To maintain anonymity, all interviewees will choose a pseudonym before the official interview begins; the interviewees will be referred to by the pseudonym throughout the research study, including in transcripts, on tapes, and in analysis and publication. To maintain confidentiality, all data, including transcripts and tapes, will be coded with the corresponding pseudonym and kept in a locked box in Dr. Lisa Langstraat’s office.


Explain your reporting mechanism for reporting adverse and serious adverse events to the HRC.

In this type of qualitative research study, we anticipate no adverse or serious events related to the study. If in the unlikely event that a serious event occurs, Ms. Boyle will call Celia Walker, Director of Regulatory Compliance, at 970-491-1553. If Ms. Boyle is incapacitated or otherwise unable to contact the HRC, Dr. Kiefer will call Ms. Walker to report the event. If Dr. Kiefer is unavailable, Dr. Langstraat will call Ms. Walker.


Describe the anticipated benefits of the research to the individual subjects, to the particular group or class from which the subject population is drawn. The benefits must be realistic and not overly stated of what each person is likely to gain from the research. If there is no direct benefit to the subject, state so. For example: “There is no known benefit in participating in this study, but we hope you will gain more knowledge on…” Compensation, payment for participation, gifts, etc., are NOT benefits.

There is no direct benefit that we can positively say will affect all subjects. However, we anticipate that subjects will benefit from taking part in the interviews in several ways: 1.) The interviews will give subjects the opportunity to verbally consider their experiences working as or working with instructors of composition; taking the time to reflect on life and career decisions is often a useful exercise. 2.) Each subject will be making a significant contribution to his or her immediate community by providing thoughtful information that, when combined with the information shared by others in the department involved in the study, will shed light on the position of the composition instructor in CSU’s English department. 3.) Each subject will be making a significant contribution to the overall body of knowledge on this topic that affects English departments nationally.

6. Other matters pertinent to the human participant.

There are no other matters pertinent to the human participant.

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