Conducting Research at the ELI



The ELI encourages research that will enhance our understanding and pedagogy of second language acquisition. At the same time, we recognizes a duty to protect our students from being overwhelmed by requests for participation and from research that is of dubious value to them as learners.

For these reasons, our policy is to require approval from the full-time ELI faculty for any study involving our students, whether or not it is conducted at the ELI.

The following procedure must be followed for all research involving ELI students (including students’ written products and classroom observations or recordings for the purpose of research):

Submit your research proposal

The primary investigator or lead researcher on the project (who may be a professor or student) contacts the ELI Director, an associate director, or a member of the full-time faculty with a research proposal, including the following information:

  • The number and level of students who will participate
  • The purpose of the research
  • A brief description of the research methods (please indicate if this should not be shared with students to protect the integrity of an experiment or observation)
  • An explanation of the benefits to students if the research is not part of the regular program of study

Note that an IRB protocol may be submitted in addition to or instead of the proposal, providing it contains all the information above.

Project approval or exemption

The project must be approved or exempted by the Institutional Research Board (IRB) unless it falls within the category of research conducted only for the purposes of a university class, in which case an email or letter from the supervising professor is required in addition to the proposal above.

  • The ELI faculty will discuss and vote on the proposal at the earliest opportunity. Our rules of order require new business to be introduced at one faculty meeting, and a vote to be taken at the next (or, if warranted, electronically after the first meeting). Please allow us sufficient time to give the proposal due consideration.
  • It is advisable but not necessary to have IRB approval or exemption before the ELI faculty vote. However, before ELI students or teachers can be invited to participate in the study and before data collection begins, researchers must secure both ELI and IRB (or supervising faculty) approval. We take IRB approval into account in our deliberations, but since our students are a somewhat vulnerable population enrolled in a very intensive language program, we take these additional measures on their behalf.

Further information

University of Delaware IRB approval process

ELI research contact person: Nigel Caplan (

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