research abroad


What is advocacy research?

Advocacy research is rooted in social justice and aims to serve the community-based organizations that IPSL partners with. The data gathered through advocacy research will be used by our partners to influence political, economic, and social decision-making.

What are the differences between sponsored research and independent research?

In a sponsored research project, the research topic is identified by the local organization and then carried by the student researcher. Typically the data is collected over a long period of time with multiple student researchers contributing to the process. Sponsored research is a good option for students with limited or no prior research experience, as these projects have already been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and will involve a greater amount of guidance and support.

With an independent research project, the student would select the research topic and design the study from the beginning. In order to have the research topic approved, we would work with you to determine if the study is possible given our existing partnerships and access to relevant populations. If the study is deemed feasible, we would then present the project to the IRB for final approval. We recommend that students choosing to conduct an independent research project have some prior research experience and start the process as early as possible. Please note that it can take some time to work out the logistical elements of the project and you will need to be comfortable with having a lot of independence.

What are the benefits of doing research?

There are many benefits to conducting research for both our students and our partners abroad. Our partners benefit through gaining a better understanding of their clients’ needs and how their services can be improved. Students who conduct the research improve their critical thinking and problem solving abilities, gain a more holistic understanding of the populations they are researching, and are able to leverage their research experience in their academic and professional lives. Engaging in an international research project can also be an impressive addition to your resume or graduate school applications, especially if you choose to publish the results.

Why does IPSL offer research opportunities for students

The IPSL research programs were designed to give Undergraduate and Graduate students a structured and supported way to learn how to conduct ethical human subject research across cultures. IPSL understands that many students have good ideas and questions as well as a desire to learn about and conduct research, but often have little opportunity to do so. We provide a way to participate in officially reviewed and approved (through the IPSL International IRB) professional level research where the data can be used in a capstone or thesis and can be published. So, anyone can participate in advocacy research, regardless of previous experience. We will provide you with comprehensive training on conducting ethical research, working with human subjects, collecting data, and analyzing and presenting your results.

What type of research training will I receive?

All students participating in advocacy research will complete Human Subjects Protections Training so that they understand the ethical and legal requirements for researchers working with human subjects. Additionally, students will complete a required research and advocacy online orientation. The orientation includes an introduction to data collection methods and tools, information about ethical considerations in research, and training on evaluating, analyzing, and presenting data.

How will I know if my independent research project is appropriate?

If you choose to conduct an independent research project, we will work with you to make sure the project is ethical and useful to the local community. All research projects must be approved by our Institutional Review Board (IRB) who will assist you in making adjustments to your research proposal.

Am I able to conduct research in all of your program locations?

We have ongoing sponsored research projects available in Vietnam, Colombia, Tanzania, and Greece. The locations available for independent research will depend on what type of project you have in mind and the local capacity to assist you. Please inquire with us and we can determine which locations are possible.

What are some examples of research projects that current and past students have participated in?

  • In Arusha, Tanzania, students assist a community hospital in improving their healthcare delivery to patients and assess the education of the community regarding healthcare topics.

  • In Medellin, Colombia, our researchers work with a human rights organization to identify the barriers to just employment for women domestic workers that were affected by conflict in the region.

  • In Hanoi, Vietnam, English language proficiency is a sought after skill and our researchers are working to identify barriers to achievement and access in a rural community English language program run by a sustainable development organization.

  • In Thessaloniki, Greece, organizations are working to create community solidarity through a variety of efforts. IPSL researchers are collecting data on the effectiveness of a community farmer’s market to support the growers and people needing food support as well as to determine the programs effect on strengthening community; in particular solidarity.

Is there an extra charge to conduct research on my program?

Including advocacy research in your program will add $500 to the total cost. This fee is used to cover the on the ground support that you will need for your project and to imburse the organizations, translators, and research subjects who will be involved in the study. This will be included in your total program fee and should be covered by student loans.

Do I need to be fluent in the local language?

You do not need to speak the local language to conduct research with IPSL. If needed, we will arrange for local interpreters to help you in translating surveys or interviewing your subjects.

Can I publish the research?

Yes. Since all IPSL student research (both independent and sponsored) is reviewed and approved by the IPSL International IRB, the study is formally approved under official Human Subject Research Guidelines, which makes it eligible for inclusion in publications and journals as well as in conference presentations.

Does my research need to be related to my major?

No. There is much to learn from simply participating in a research study (especially in an international setting) even if it is not in your major, minor or even in your future career field. However, if you know you want to use the data from an IPSL research project for your thesis or capstone, then you might consider working with IPSL to relate the research topic to your major.

Do I need to work with my academic advisor at my university to determine a research project?

No, this is not a requirement. IPSL has an extensive structure in place to guide you through the research preparations and executions. However, if you would like to get advice from a professor or academic advisor at your university, IPSL can help coordinate this.

How far in advance do I need to prepare for an independent research project?

If you would like to do an independent research project, you should start the preparations at least two months in advance. It can take some time to have the research project approved by the IRB and to make the arrangements on the ground.

How far in advance of my program do I need to tell you that I want to do sponsored research?

If you would like to participate in a sponsored research project, you should let us know about a month before the start of your program. The process is much shorter with a sponsored research project because it has already been approved by the IRB and the logistical elements of the study are in place. Also, the study may have already been started by previous IPSL advocacy research students.

What is a LARL?

Local Advocacy Research Liaisons (LARLs) are often local community members who provide in-country logistical support to research students including access to local populations and organizations, interpreting services and cultural, legal, and policy information. Most often they are either one of your professors or your on-site program director.

Who should I talk to if I am having difficulty with my research project?

  • If you run into any problems while conducting your research, you should reach out to your LARL, your program director, or even your COSA professor if the LARL is unavailable. Additionally, you may contact the IPSL Advocacy Research Coordinator in Portland, Oregon.

  • LARLs can help with most of your on the ground logistical questions or issues, such as facilitating linguistic and cultural communication between you and the research field study site, arranging for an interpreter, and providing ethical and cultural advice.

  • Your COSA professor and/or the Graduate Academic Coordinator can assist with academic questions about the research project, such as how to analyze and present data as well as questions about your research analysis paper and presentation.

  • The IPSL Advocacy Research Coordinator can assist with questions about the submission, review and approval process, questions regarding any changes to the study, requirements regarding the analysis and presentation components, and unanticipated problems.

If I do a research project, do I also need to complete service?

If you decide to participate in advocacy research during your program, this work can be counted as your service experience. However, if you would like to do a separate service project in addition to research (either at your research organization or at another service site) this is also a possibility.