Department of Defense Education Activity

FAQs Concerning Research Requests

1. What criteria will the review committee use to judge the proposal?

The review committee will be looking for the following criteria while reviewing the proposal. First, the study should be compatible with DoDEA policy and align with the benchmarks of the DoDEA Community Strategic Plan. Second, the hypothesis(es) of the study must be educationally important and serve to answer a pertinent issue in education. Evidence must be provided in the proposal about the theoretical and/or prior research upon which this hypothesis was developed, with linkages between the hypothesis(es) and the theoretical and/or prior research clearly shown. Third, the study must have an appropriate design, a well-defined sample, and valid and reliable instruments for data collection. Fourth, the timeline for data collection should not unduly affect instructional time. Finally, the study must have appropriate analyses and reporting techniques.

2. Who reviews the applications?

The applications for research are reviewed by a panel of DoDEA personnel (research committee) chosen to represent a broad base of subject matter experts. The committee ensures that research conducted in the DoDEA system complies with the DoDEA Community Strategic Plan and protects staff and students from unnecessary data collection. Studies that do not meet these criteria will be returned for revision.

3. What happens after the research committee reviews the application?

The research committee will make recommendations for acceptance or denial to the Chief, Research and Evaluation Branch. The Chief, Research and Evaluation, will verify or gain approval from the principal, district superintendent, and Area director. The Chief, Research and Evaluation Branch will then notify the requester of final approval or denial of the research.

Parental/student consent must be obtained where appropriate. One copy of the consent form must be kept on file in the student's permanent file at the school. No information, including but not limited to names, addresses, student ID, etc., about a student shall be released without the prior written consent of the parent.

The notification letter will state the conditions upon which approval is contingent or the reasons why the research proposal was denied.

4. What are the requirements of the researcher while the study is conducted?

Data collection should be scheduled well in advance of the timeline needed. Research must begin between October 1 and March 1, and completed by May 15. Consent from parents/students must be obtained, where appropriate. One copy of the parental permission slip will be filed in the students' permanent folder. All information obtained is held in the strictest of confidence, under the Privacy Act (5 USC 552a). Individuals conducting research studies in DoDEA schools/districts must abide by standards of professional conduct at all times. Failure to do so will be sufficient cause for termination of the research study.

5. What happens after the study?

The researcher must submit two copies of the final report when the research is complete as well as seek approval by the DoDEA Chief, Research and Evaluation Branch for submitting the research to publication. Studies on-going for more than one year must be updated with a progress report in the DoDEA Research and Evaluation Branch on the anniversary of the study's approval date.

DoDEA Research Proposal FAQs
  1. What is the most common misunderstanding about the DoDEA Research Proposal review process?
    • The most common mistake is assuming that DoDEA set up the review process to encourage research.  DoDEA set up the review process to ensure research involving DoDEA’s schools is directly related to DoDEA’s Community Strategic Plan (CSP) goals, has practical benefits to the military and/or civilian communities that DoDEA serves, and is based on sound research methodology.  Further, the review is done to ensure that the privacy of DoDEA students and staff is safeguarded, that classroom instructional time is not negatively impacted by the data collection, and that data collection does not present a burden to DoDEA staff.
  2. How far in advance of when I plan to do my research should I submit my complete application to DoDEA’s Research and Evaluation Division for review?
    • You should submit a completed application as early as possible before you expect to conduct your research.  Once DoDEA has a completed application from you, you should expect the initial review to take 4 weeks.  The majority of applications are not approved after the initial review.  Most require moderate revision by the applicant and a second review on the part of DoDEA.  
  3. Does DoDEA’s Research and Evaluation Division provide follow-up advice regarding the research project?
    • No.  When the review is complete, DoDEA will send you a letter listing the areas that require revision, if any.  You will need to consult with your thesis advisor at your degree-granting institution regarding the specifics of revising your research proposal.

Common Simple Problems 

  • DoDEA is mentioned in the title, abstract, research proposal, or IRB documents.
  • The title on the IRB proposal and the DoDEA research proposal do not match exactly.
  • The timeline is unreasonable.
  • The schools proposed in the study have closed, merged with other schools, or are not in the DoDEA system.
  • Data being requested are not tracked or unavailable.
  • Key terms are not defined or used consistently.
  • The instruments being used to collect data were not included in the research proposal packet, so it is impossible to evaluate the proposal on methodological merit.  
  • The researcher intends to use standardized test scores for a test which is administered more than once during the year.  More specificity is needed as to which administration of the test is requested.
  • Interview or focus group time proposed is insufficient for the number of topics to be covered.
  • The amount or length of interviews is based on unrealistic expectations regarding the amount of personal time anyone except close friends is likely to be available as subjects.  
  • The researcher did not consider when these interviews will take place, whether inside or outside of the teacher’s duty day, and how long each interview will take.  
  • Informed consent to participate is not clearly discussed.  For example, inadequate attention was given to the restrictions as to when, where, and whether one can interview students who are minors.  There is no indication that parents will need to give consent for their minor children to participate in this study.  
  • The anonymity of research subjects is not protected.  For example, a statement is made that principals and superintendents may review raw study data, even though this violates the privacy of the interview subjects.  
  • There is insufficient discussion of data security, and/or what is provided conflicts with government regulations concerning the protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII).  For example, the researcher wants student level data emailed to a non-secure email address (a .yahoo account) and intends to keep this information on a flash drive (per the data use agreement) which is portable and can be easily lost or stolen.  

Common Complex Problems


  • Samples are based on friendship expectations, not methodological rigor.  
  • The study is a convenience sample of fewer than a dozen teachers at one school, but the applicant asks for demographic data for the school and district “for context”.  The applicant appears unaware that that such a sample is not going to be generalizable to the district or the system as a whole.  The applicant does not exhibit an understanding of external validity.


  • The methodology is not a good match for the research questions.
  • The researcher is attempting to measure the impact of a program without any pre-test data.
  • Reference is made to comparative analysis, but no comparison group is specified.
  • The study looks only at schools where the intervention has taken place and suggests that any changes that take place may be attributed to the intervention.  A control site is needed where the intervention has not taken place.
  • To justify the study and the collection of data, it is important to know in some detail what analytical method is going to be employed to answer the research question.  For example, is the study going to be a qualitative design that uses interpretation to judge how the students/staff are responding to a process?  Or is it going to track quantitative behavioral data overtime to assess whether a technique/ intervention/policy/program works in a new setting?  


  • The researcher incorrectly applies terminology throughout the research proposal, suggesting that the researcher does not fully understand the topic under analysis.
  • The study focuses on collecting fears and anxieties rather than documenting knowledge, skills, abilities, experience, or impact.

Research Questions

  • No hypotheses are presented.
  • There is no discussion as to how the proposed research will test existing theory or move existing theory forward.  Minimal or no reference is made to published scholarship.
  • There is a disconnect between the abstract, the research questions, and the interview and survey questions. 
  • Interview and/or survey questions are open-ended and vague.  The meaning of the answers received will not be able to be clearly interpreted.

Statistical Analysis

  • Independent/dependent variables are not clearly specified and/or insufficient to test the theory.
  • Statistical terms, such as “t-test”, are used inappropriately or in a manner that leaves the impression that the applicant does not really understand their meaning.
  • There is a mismatch between the statistical methodology proposed and the causal inferences that the researcher plans to make.  Examples: The researcher intends to make causal statements but the proposed methodology is too simplistic to generate findings that will allow for those connections to be made.  Or, the statistical methodology is too sophisticated and cannot be supported by the number of cases.


  • The applicant is not objective.  The proposal indicates that the applicant has strong opinions about the likely findings.  Those pre-conceived opinions appear to be biasing the sample and/or data collection instruments.