Before submitting your own IRB protocol, read someone else’s protocol. Ask about parts of their protocol that were most challenging or straightforward. If possible, ask them to share what feedback they received from the IRB committee and how they addressed those recommendations.

Read blogs like these and share them with others. Pull together a collection of resources that other researchers can use for future IRB protocol submissions.

Many researchers write an informed consent using academic jargon, but fail to use language-appropriate vocabulary for their audience. An IRB administrator can meet with a researcher and ask probing questions like, “what is the reading level of your research population,” or “will your audience be familiar with these vocabulary words” or “how long do you think it will take your participants to read and understand this content?”

Researchers can determine the literacy level of the texts they produce. Literacy levels may include sentence lengths, word counts, vocabulary levels, and reading ease and can be measured by the Flesch (1948) Reading Ease metric. This metric helps ensure that the content difficulty and overall readability is compatible with the investigators research population. Also, researchers can use examples to clarify potentially confusing words (e.g., anxiety means to worry).

Researchers should consider the reading speed of their population of interest. There are even websites (not sure of their reliability) that measure reading speed ( These reading speed websites should be taken with a grain of salt, but they could still offer some useful insights into ensuring that the text researchers produce is compatible with their participants’ needs.

For example, in 2012, Forbes reported that third-grade students read 150 words per minute and the average adult reads 300 words per minute (see the Forbes article by clicking this link).

Researchers can calculate the word count of their public documents (e.g., recruitment email, informed consent, etc.) in most desktop applications (e.g., Microsoft Word) and compare it to the average age and reading speed of their participants. That way, researchers can get a sense of how long a participant will need to read all of the provided reading materials.

Hasbrouck and Tindal (2006) also developed a Fluency Norms Chart for documenting oral reading fluency (see some online details about the fluency chart here

To summarize, read examples of other IRB protocols and pay attention to how sentences are structured and how content flows. When writing, avoid jargon and use examples when appropriate. Lastly, determine the word count for all of documents, then, see if that word count matches the average speed of participants.


For fun, I took a speed-reading test online and apparently, based on my score, I can read Pride and Prejudice in three days, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in two days, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in one day. I’d better get on that!