Fieldwork and Research Timeline

The specific dates of the following deadlines vary each year – see steps below:

Step 1 - Supervisor Identification and Declaration

The fieldwork process begins early in the fall semester, with the identification of your research supervisor. The MSc-GH Mentor Declaration form briefly outlines your research topic and is the first step in developing the fieldwork project. 

Step 2 - Draft Research Proposal with Budget

Working with your primary supervisor and other professors, you will write and submit a ‘draft research proposal’, which establish roles and expectations in the research process. Forms and guidelines are provided, and proposal writing workshops are held throughout fall semester to help with this step. 
These two documents function as an organizational first step towards the final research proposal.

Step 3 - Initiate the Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval Process

All MSc-GH fieldwork projects require review by Duke Kunshan’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). This board, charged with determining if your proposed project meets all ethical guidelines, will assess your project plan to determine what level of review is necessary. Their assessment will be based on an IRB Protocol, a detailed explanation of the research question and proposed methodology. Students are responsible for the preparation and submission of the IRB protocol, but student’s supervisor must sign off on the protocol in order for the review to move forward. Guidance will be provided by Senior Program Coordinator at the Global Health Program Education Office, with involvement by IRB officials. Data security plans will be reviewed by the IRB office as well.

The IRB process can be complex and time-consuming, so students are encouraged to begin development of the IRB protocol as soon as the project plan has been finalized. Any ethical concerns or needs for additional information will be brought to your attention after a preliminary review. Final approval will only be granted once all ethical concerns have been addressed and resolved. 

Duke Kunshan IRB approval does not mean that you have received approval from the ethical review board in the country where fieldwork will be conducted. Both student and supervisor should review the local IRB processes and assure that the project is in compliance with all necessary requirements. If student do not obtain local IRB clearance despite the fact that a local process exists, student will be unable to collect or publish any data, which can result in not graduating in the MSc program. International IRB processes can be lengthy: start early.

Duke Kunshan conducts a workshop in November/December to review IRB guidelines and forms, and to discuss questions that commonly arise during the review process. 

Step 4 - Thesis Committee Formation

Each student will have a thesis committee of at least three faculty members, all of whom must hold appointments as Duke Graduate Faculty (either Full Faculty or Term Faculty). To ensure that students receive maximum benefit of the expertise of their thesis committee, members should be identified as soon as possible after the draft proposal has been submitted. Together with their primary supervisor, students should propose 2 to 4 faculty members to be considered for committee membership to MSc-GH program staff, who will finalize committee membership and approval of committees by the Program Director as well as the Graduate School. Students should discuss membership with potential faculty members in advance of submitting recommendations.
The deadline to submit thesis committee membership is the end of the first complete week of Spring semester.

Step 5 - Final Research Proposal with Budget and Approved Duke Kunshan IRB

The final proposal, incorporating feedback and suggestions from others, as well as providing additional detail regarding the research question and proposed methodology, is due in March. You will also need to submit a proposed project budget, a 250-word project abstract, approved Duke Kunshan IRB and other documents required to process the fieldwork grant. 
Because of the variety of people and paperwork involved in processing requests for the fieldwork grant, the deadline is firm. Submissions past this deadline may result in a delay in making the funding available.

It is possible to submit these materials earlier, if funding is needed before mid-April. To discuss options, students should meet with the Senior Program Coordinator.

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