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Institutional Review Board (IRB): Eligibility Criteria

What is eligibility criteria?

Eligibility criteria is a list of criteria that someone is required to meet in order to be eligible to participate in your study. You will write eligibility criteria if you are conducting human subjects research.

Writing Your Eligibility Criteria

Your eligibility criteria should be so clear that a potential participant can read it and say "Yes, I am eligible for that study" or "No, I am not eligible for that study." Keep the following in mind when writing your eligibility criteria:

  • Include "Are age 18 or older" in your criteria if you are only recruiting adults and a minor could otherwise be eligible for your study
  • Name any specific organizations or locations that participants must be associated with
  • If you have multiple participant populations (such as students and teachers) use have separate lists of eligibility criteria and use separate recruitment and consent materials.

Attend a Group Writing Session on Eligibility

The NU IRB recommends that you attend a Group Writing Session and receive feedback on your eligibility criteria before you submit your IRB application.

Eligibility Criteria in Your IRB Application

Eligibility criteria will appear in 3 locations within most IRB applications:

  1. The "Recruitment" section of your application
  2. Your recruitment material/s
  3. Your consent material/s

Your eligibility criteria should be exactly, word-for-word the same in all 3 locations.

Contact the IRB

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 Visit the IRB Office Hours page

Pre-Screening and Screening

Pre-screening is the term used to describe activities before obtaining informed consent (e.g., screening to see if the potential participant meets inclusion criteria for this study). Pre-screening may not include any research procedures. If you are pre-screening, the IRB will expect to see your pre-screening material/s as part of your application.

Screening is the term used to describe activities performed after obtaining consent to ensure subjects are qualified for the study. (e.g., participants need to have a particular physical or mental condition that is required to be part of the study, and you give them a measurement scale to determine if they experience that condition.)  If you are screening, the IRB will expect to see this as part of your regular research activities.

Most studies involve only the use of eligibility criteria for determining who is qualified, and further information is not needed.