Research, Consent

Consent to Participate in a Participatory Action Research

A. Title of Study: Translating Success: A Web-Based, Participatory Action Research on International Students’ Academic Transition and Success in US Universities
B. Investigator: Ghanashyam (Shyam) Sharma, Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11784

C. Invitation: If you are a current or former international student in a college or university in the United States, or if you work with them, you are invited to participate in this research project. This is a participatory action research study which uses the current website to share stories and reflections about international students’ academic transition and success, to exchange comments, and to publish relevant scholarly resources for context. The contents of the site may also be cited for scholarly publications. You are also invited to add comments on other participants’ entries, thereby joining a conversation on any issues that interest you.

D. Objective of the Study: The objective of this study is to better understand the academic transition of international students in US universities, including their strengths and resources as well as challenges and obstacles. With the stories/essays published on this site and academic scholarship based on the material, the academic community will be informed about how to best serve students like you during the transition through academic and other support programs/services and strategies.

E. Background and Significance: Current discourse on international students’ academic transition still heavily focuses on the “language problems” that these students are assumed to face due to the fact that most of them are nonnative speakers of English. Even when universities provide support to ease their academic transition beyond addressing their challenges with language, that support is based on problematic theories about language identity, on a discourse of “deficiency,” and on needs for academic support that are identified in generalized terms. This study seeks to take a step toward turning the above tradition of research and hence practice on their heads by using a “participatory action research” approach, an approach that treats the “subjects” of research as agents and participants who can be involved in identifying their strengths and solving their problems; in this case, current and former international students will participate in the act of telling and sharing their stories of success, failure, turning points, lessons learned, and theoretical and practical advice for one another. That act of sharing stories and discussing them with other participants, including the researcher and other teachers and scholars involved in teaching/supporting international students or studying the subject of their academic transition, is expected to help the participants identify and address their challenges as well as validate their strengths.

F. Preliminary Studies: The preliminary study of this research does not involve data collection from the research participants. Library and web-based research done by the researcher toward understanding the current state of scholarship on the subject will not affect the research participants.

G. Research Design and Methods 

  1. Design of Study: This is a “Participatory Action Research” project in that participation–through sharing and exchange of experiences and perspectives–amounts to taking intellectual and social action toward helping oneself and others how to better tackle the challenges of academic transition, as well as better identifying and appreciating academic strengths that international students may bring into their study in the US. The perspectives of former international students or other teachers and scholars will add to the scholarship produced, as well as benefit international students who share experience/ideas and learn about new perspectives from the project site.
  2. Rationale: Participants will be involved in the research through sharing unique stories and reflections of their individual experiences . The researcher will be involved in the process of the study as an ongoing conversation, while acknowledging to the participants that he is interested in drawing insights from the conversation toward publishing them in other venues such as journals and in a book project; the participants will be able to do the same if they so desire. This method of study is not new in itself, but with the affordances that blogging as an interactive, Web 2.0 technology adds to the process of participatory action research, such research becomes more meaningful as well as more capable of achieving its objectives.
  3. Research Site: Participation in this study will be primarily solicited on the research website, so the number of institutions to which participants may belong is not specific.  
  4. Study sample: The participants of this study will primarily include current and former international students; solicited blog posts from teachers and scholars with experiences of teaching or otherwise working with international students will be added to the project in order to include advice and perspectives on how international students can best adapt to US academe and be successful. The expected number of participants within a five year timeline is about 300.
  5. Screening: Since the input mechanism is open, the researcher will assess the authenticity of contributed material as needed. Stories that contain relevant and significant information will be posted as blog entries, with any edits necessary that will be requested of the author submitting the text.
  6. Procedures: The researcher will primarily solicit participation through email and this website. After reviewing the details about the research project on this page, participants will indicate their consent on the submission page here (for students) and here (for scholars).

H. Funding Status, Details: The funding for this study comes from a departmental startup/research fund provided to the researcher by his department as part of his employment contract and later approved for this particular study by his supervisor.

I. Human Subject Research Protections from Risk 

  1. Risk to Subjects: There are no major risks to participants of this study. However, the fact that your story of personal academic experience will be published on a website means that you should share only what you feel comfortable sharing. Please DO NOT include any private or sensitive information about you in the story or post. Please also avoid naming or including identifying information other individuals or institutions in ways that may hurt their feelings or image.
  2. Adequacy of Protection Against Risks: You can choose to use a “pen name” instead of your real name when submitting your story or essay, and that name will be included on this site. If any information within the narratives seems sensitive or inappropriate, it will be replaced with equivalent but generic words [in brackets] before publishing the story as a blog entry.
  3. Confidentiality: Your email will only be used for correspondence within this project and to send the gift coupon code for There is no guarantee of absolute privacy in terms of readers being able to identify you, but best efforts will be made to protect it for you.
  4. Removal of Content: You can get any comments published on this site by requesting via the contact form; the blog will be moderated for inappropriate comments, and you can ask any comments on your story to be removed also.
  5. If You Have Any Questions: You may contact Dr. Ghanashyam Sharma at (631) 632-9186 any time you have questions about the research, or to report a research-related injury.  You may contact Ms. Judy Matuk, Committee on Research Involving Human Subjects, (631) 632-9036, OR by e-mail,, if you have any questions about your rights as a research subject or if you would like to obtain information or offer input.

J. Potential Benefits of Proposed Research to the Subjects and Others

  1. Compensation: The first 300 contributors contacted by the researcher will be provided a $15 gift card that can be used at the online store; your gift card will be sent via email including a “redeem code.” The submission form will be updated when available funding is depleted.
  2. Benefits to You: Other than the reward if you are in the first batch of participants, there are no direct benefits to you. But the research may benefit international students, possibly including you, from reading and sharing the experiences of academic transition with other international students.
  3. Importance of the Knowledge to be Gained: The study will help the researcher and other scholars interested in the subject to better understand the challenges, prospects, and needs of international students toward easing their academic transition and helping them better translate their past academic success into similar success in the US university. As a participatory action research study, it is also likely to benefit participants and others who read the stories and join the conversation toward easing their academic transition and success.

L. Literature Cited: None.

N. How to Contribute: Stories can be sent to the researcher through this page. Please note that, once reviewed, your narrative will be posted on this site as a blog entry and it will remain here unless you ask it to be removed by contacting the researcher (you can do so without specifying a reason). Your “story” may have a storyline in it, be a reflection or discussion of an issue, or a description of an event that has a theme to it. Of course, a story containing an event or series of events plus a stated/implied theme would be ideal, but the general purpose of your writing is to convey a point through what you tell your readers. Your story must be 500 – 2000 words (though some may be outside that range) and it must focus on academic transition and success (not cultural or social experience) after you started studying here in the US. See featured stories for example.

O. Solicitation: Finally, if you have read the above terms and agree to participate in this study, please click HERE to open/return to a form that will let you contribute your story. Here is the link for expert participants.


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