Guidelines for IMA Assistance With Research

These Guidelines were originally written and published. April, 2010, by Dr. Rey Carr, IMA member and CEO of Peer Resources, Victoria, Canada. Thanks Rey for your wisdom and giving us permission to share it within the IMA.


The Situation

As the “premier sources for mentoring research and best practices since 1987”, we periodically receive member requests for guidance and/or assistance in the conduct or content of research projects. Some have been requests for guidance in their process. Others have requested that our members complete paper-based or web questionnaires, or participate in focus groups, interviews and the like, to provide data for a study.

We have found the range in the quality of such requests to vary considerably, which we feel necessitates these Guidelines for the following reasons.

Research Request Guideline Goals

1. To establish criteria that will provide guidance to thesis, dissertation, and other researchers who seek IMA assistance in their research process, so that their request proposal will speed and facilitate the evaluation of their request;

2. To provide the criteria which allow the IMA to effectively evaluate requests by such researchers. When the request is for member participation, our members count on us to screen requests to avoid commercial or unworthy requests which are not worthy of their time. Therefore, these Guidelines also serve as our criteria for evaluation of such requests.

General IMA Support of Research
The International Mentoring Association strongly supports research in mentoring and coaching, and we demonstrate that support by our dissemination of quality research in this field through several venues. We do everything we can to assist experienced or budding researchers in achieving their research objectives.

Those seeking IMA guidance must submit a written request proposal and conform their request proposal to the following guidelines for the request to be considered.

The Literature Review
Our web site and other vehicles are amazing sources of a vast host of research in mentoring and of best practices which depend on those research sources. These are both “classic” research reports of considerable historic value to the field as well, as current or recent studies which we continually are in search of and are continually adding to our dissemination options. Our members deserve the best and we expend considerable time and effort to ensure they get the best.

This, added to our own professional experience, means that we are very familiar with the majority of literature that exists in the coaching and mentoring fields. Typically, we turn down requests that do not reflect a reasonable familiarity with the current research relevant to the issues, hypotheses, or topic being studied by the researcher. Such unfamiliarity often results in a study which makes little or no contribution to the field because the author does not know the field and studies a topic which is already well-researched. We will not support such a process.

By the point at which a researcher may ask us for assistance with research, the literature review should have been completed. Therefore, we often ask the researcher to provide us with a copy of the literature review section. We do this for several reasons, but one is that the review may reveal why duplication or a small variation from other prior research may be useful, such as to validate the ability to generalize the results, such as by replication of the earlier results but to do so under differing conditions or methodologies.

We place such importance on the literature review because it is not just a summary of what studies have already found on a topic. The literature review may also serve other key roles:

  1. to establish the necessity of conducting the intended study;
  2. to provide the theoretical foundations for the planned study;
  3. to demonstrate why this study is important and explain the contribution it can be expected to make;
  4. to critique, not just summarize, the existing literature.When the researcher’s point is that there is too little research on a particular topic, the researcher must detail what that small amount does say and why further exploration will be worthwhile.

Finally, the literature review ought to make it obvious to the reader why following the researcher’s proposal will be in the best interests of the field. We should be convinced that, without such a study, the field will be significantly diminished.

Therefore, an effective literature review will answer the following questions:

  • What will we know as a result of your study that we didn’t know before?
  • Why should we care to know these things?
  • Why should we consider what you are proposing to do as credible, logical, and worthwhile?


A. Type of Research
Although we are interested in and familiar with various methodologies, we are not concerned that the research employ any particular quantitative or qualitative methodology. We recognize that most of the researchers who contact us will be engaging in survey research that might include forms to be completed, or in interviews or focus group activities.

B. Question Design
However, we are concerned about the quality and insightfulness of the questions or prompts used and the degree to which such prompts are likely to yield the data required (sufficiency and validity) to answer the research questions. The questions being posed should relate to the literature review.

C. Data Sampling and Study Population
Although data sampling procedures are not normally of significant concern to us, the validity and value of the research study depend on sufficient sampling procedures. sample size, etc. These should be detailed in the methodology section of the research proposal request submitted to us. Without this detail we cannot support the study, since it’s value will be in question.

Security and Safety Standards
Any researchers requesting access to our members must provide information about the ethical standards used by their home institution or organization to:
protect the participants in the research and their privacy;
supervise the conduct of the research:
ensure the confidentiality of the results (if appropriate);
ensure the general emotional and physical safety of the participants.

Most universities have a Research Ethics Review Committee that is required to examine and approve any study that will involve the use of human beings. In addition graduate students typically have a research supervisor who must approve such research proposals. Requests to the IMA must provide the details and contact information of these approval entities. Individuals conducting research who are not associated with such formal entities must indicate how they are addressing these same elements.

The only research requests we accept are those that use voluntary participation. Whether persons participating in the study must be identified or provide identifying information will be determined by the researcher and the rationale for that decision should be provided in the request for participation.

Under no circumstances will we provide any contact information on members in order for a researcher to contact any individuals directly.  All contact will be through IMA vehicles.

Dissemination of Results
Typically our members are interested in the outcomes of any research. This is especially so if it is a project in which they have participated. Researchers must provide information about how they plan to manage the results and a timeline as well as intended publication or distribution of the results of a study.

We further require a commitment from the researcher that at least a detailed abstract (7-10 pages?) of the finished research report will be submitted for publication at the option of the IMA.

Other Requirements for Coaching of Researchers
As experienced researchers, we feel an obligation to assist novice researchers in the improvement of the quality of their research proposals and projects. However, given the free nature of the service we would provide and the extent of time needed, we will only work with researchers who are current IMA members. This is why we have provided the above guidance to those members only.

Of course, our ability to respond to requests will vary as different Board of Director members, officers, and appropriate committee and other Association members are or are not available.

We encourage you to inform us of your need, including a written request which is according to these guidelines.  The complete request must include the above elements, and should be forwarded to the current President of the International Mentoring Association. The President will determine what is done with the proposal and who will respond to it. That current person’s contact information can be found in the side bar in every IMA “Mentoring Connections: newsletter and on the IMA web site under the “About the IMA” tab, then “Board” link.

Rejected Request Proposals
When we reject a proposal, it is generally due to the lack of available appropriate expertise to adequately respond. In that case, we will say so.

If we reject a proposal and do not include a reason, that typically means that the quality of the proposal is so poor that we are unable to take the time needed to meet the need. We respect your feelings, so please understand that we will not say that, we just will not explain or provide specific feedback on the project proposal.