Expanding a single-institution survey to multiple institutions: Lessons learned in research design and deployment

Erin R. B. Eldermire, Kristine M. Alpi, Suzanne Fricke, Andrea C. Kepsel, Erin E. Kerby, Jessica R. Page, Hannah F. Norton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Creating generalizable knowledge across institutions is a step beyond a successful local research project. The purpose of this article is to share the process and lessons learned from expanding a survey tool developed and piloted at a single veterinary college to its deployment at multiple veterinary colleges in the United States and Canada. Problem: Little guidance exists on expanding a survey developed for a single institution to distribution to health professions students across multiple institutions. Methods: In June 2016, the first author of the survey contacted librarians from veterinary colleges to explore a possible multi-institution study to investigate student behaviors and perceptions around scientific information. Librarians from 29 institutions initially expressed interest. Those at 15 institutions participated in initial planning, and eight elected to distribute the survey. Of these, seven submitted for IRB review at their own institution and one institution facilitated the distribution of the survey under the original institution's IRB exemption. Findings: The IRB submission process and requirements varied by participating institution. Mean time from submission to approval was 10 days (range: 2-31 days). Several changes were made to the survey based on the recommendations of participating librarians, ranging from simplifying the method of survey distribution to modifying specific questions to make them meaningful across institutions. Because participating institutions did not have synchronized academic calendars, the survey distribution took a staggered approach between institutions based on IRB review and varying institutional processes. Conclusions: Expanding even a simple IRB-exempt survey from one institution to others requires careful consideration of local practices, attention to differences in the IRB process, and ethical considerations for recruiting students where librarians serve as instructors or hold other positions of influence. Attempts to standardize recruitment messaging and survey questions for generalizable results required compromise by the librarian researchers at participating institutions.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-20
Number of pages10
JournalHypothesis: Journal of the Research Section of MLA
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • multi-institutional survey
  • librarian research
  • human research
  • institutional review board


Dive into the research topics of 'Expanding a single-institution survey to multiple institutions: Lessons learned in research design and deployment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this