There are many potential barriers to conducting research in any setting. When setting up a research study, it is important to identify potential barriers and have plans to overcome them. For example, what will you do if your organization denies funding for your study? In some cases, the study may have to be redesigned. With practice, you will learn how to adapt and overcome barriers to your own research.


Access to desired material is one of the first potential barriers to conducting research. For qualitative research conducted at a particular location, there is typically a "gatekeeper." Gatekeepers control access to the research site. In some cases, gatekeepers may block access to the site, meaning the study cannot go forward and data cannot be collected. As a researcher, it is important to cultivate honest, open and constructive relationships with gatekeepers.

Institutional Review Board

For researchers at organizations such as public universities, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services require review by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) for all research involving human participants. The purpose of an IRB is to protect the rights of the participants by requiring practices like informed consent. Researchers submit their plans to conduct a study to the IRB, and the IRB can approve the study, require changes or more information, or disapprove the study.

Participant Mortality

Participant mortality is a term used to describe the risk of participants dropping out of the study before the research is complete. IRBs typically require that participants are able to drop out of the study without risk. In some cases, participant mortality can occur even before the study begins. This can be detrimental to quantitative research in which high numbers of participants are sometimes required to reach the desired level of statistical significance.


As with any project, another barrier to conducting research may be limited resources. Lack of financial funds may block access to certain potential research settings and participant groups. Many studies are conducted using students enrolled in certain courses. Additional participants could likely be found if the researchers had the financing to pay other people to participate, or place ads asking for volunteers. In addition to participants, researchers themselves may be lacking as a resource. Some studies require more than one researcher, and if no others are available to help, the study may not be completed, or even begun.

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