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Student Affairs Research Approval (SARA)

In an effort to reduce survey and research fatigue, the University of Illinois has a Policy Governing Electronic Surveys and Questionnaires. This policy designates Student Affairs to be responsible for reviewing and approving any campus-wide surveys that target students. The Student Affairs Research Approval (SARA) process was put into the place to operationalize this policy. The primary goal is to ensure a student does not receive more than three university sponsored research solicitations per academic semester. University sponsored research solicitation include institutional surveys and any survey distributed via the Division of Management Information (DMI). Additionally, the SARA policy is in place to assist researchers who wish to work with Student Affairs units to recruit students for their project and assist external/non-Illinois researchers.

Submit SARA Request

Do I need to submit a Student Affairs Research Approval (SARA)?

If your project meets one of the following conditions, you will need to submit a SARA request:

  • A researcher does not have an appointment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • A researcher/campus unit is requesting a sample of students through the university’s Division for Management of Information (DMI). If approved, DMI will work with the researcher/unit to develop a sample aligned with approved inclusion/exclusion criteria.
  • A researcher is looking to recruit students from any Student Affairs units at Illinois. This includes requests for distribution to via unit newsletters, social media, flyers, and requests for additional collaboration regarding student studies.

SARA approvals for each semester can be submitted up until November 1 for the fall semester and April 1 for the spring semester, and July 1 for summer. Requests are processed in 7 business days.

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.

As of 7/1/2022, SARA approval is no longer needed for campus researchers looking to recruit students through academic colleges/departments or campus units outside Student Affairs. Per the Policy Governing Electronic Surveys and Questionnaires (pdf), academic college may create their own policies and procedures. In addition, SARA approval is not needed for requests to student organizations or individual course instructors.

What are the restrictions on soliciting students for surveys/research at UIUC?

  • 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.

    No survey periods include:

    • Fall 2023: December 1 – 15
    • Spring 2024: April 26 – May 10
  • Students cannot be recruited during the first three days of any institutional survey (e.g. Chancellor Senior Survey, Illini Success). Oversight of institutional surveys is delegated to the Institutional Student Survey Committee. Institutional Student Surveys are being sent during the following timeframes (dates subject to change)
    • Fall 2023
      • Chancellor Senior Survey: October 2nd – October 24th
      • Campus Climate: October 25th – November 7th
      • Illini Success: November 9th – November 15th
    • Spring 2024
      • Sexual Misconduct Survey: February 19th – March 2nd
      • Chancellor Senior Survey: March 4th – April 1st
      • Illini Success: TBA
  • Recruitment is limited to 1 direct email invite and no more than 2 follow up reminders.
  • Student survey samples (processed via DMI) have the following limitations
    • Samples are limited to 5,000 students or 60% of a desired population per fiscal year
    • 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.
    • Samples will be generated after the 10th class day of each semester.
    • Campus units seeking to do surveys for non-research purposes must have approval from their unit head.
  • Requests from non-University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers will be limited to 3 per semester and considered on a first-come first-served basis. Documentation of IRB approval or exemption from their home campus is required. Non-UIUC requests will be evaluated to determine if they duplicate, conflict, or are in competition with other surveys also being conducted by university administration or Illinois faculty.
  • Researchers will not have access to students’ identifiable information (e.g. name, email address). Samples through DMI will be provided to the researcher via the Webtools Email platform. DMI charges an hourly cost.

When should I submit a SARA request and what is the approval process?

SARA approvals for each semester can be submitted up until November 1 for the fall semester and April 1 for the spring semester, and July 1 for summer. SARA approval will not be granted until final IRB approval is obtained, however a researcher can submit a SARA request while an IRB is in process. All applications will be reviewed within 7 business days. The Director of Assessment & Planning may reach out with additional follow up questions, to discuss alternative administration timelines, or review the available sample for the population you requested. SARA requests may also be reviewed by the Institutional Student Survey Committee. Once SARA approval is granted, DMI will be notified, and the researcher will be provided information to work with DMI on finalizing the sample.

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. SARA approval is not granted until after IRB approval however you are welcome to contact Dr. Beth Hoag at bhoag2@illinois.edu prior to submitting an IRB to discuss your project and intended sample.

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.

Where do I find information about campus resources for study participants?

Student Affairs Assessment and Planning maintains a list of current resources available on campus, locally in the community, and nationally. This is not an exhaustive list. Consider adding additional, vetted resources that may be of particular interest to your study's participants. 

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Faculty Senate Policy

The Faculty Senate has a policy Governing Electronic Surveys and Questionnaires directed to students, faculty members, or staff of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. See the policy here:

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The SARA Process is overseen by Dr. Beth Hoag bhoag2@illinois.edu, Director of Assessment and Planning, Student Affairs.


Policy was last reviewed and approved by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs – 8/15/2023

Policy was last reviewed and approved by Assistant Provost for Management Information – 8/15/2023

Policy was last reviewed and approved by the Director of the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects – 8/17/2023