I have just started working on a dissertation and I need to contact a number of organisations to get an idea of how they work.

What I am after is not sensitive in its nature. I just want to know what practices they apply to their tasks and whether they have developed anything different that suits their needs or perhaps the tools they use.

However, I am being troubled by the following points:

  • How can I assure the organisations that the information I require is not sensitive or for commercial purposes? My interests are purely academic.
  • I am carrying out my research within an organisation. I am worried they might see me as competition. For the time being I have opted to not mentioning any organisation.

How can I go about assuring them that my interests are purely academic and convince them to reply back? What should I do?

  • 2
    this is a question about sociological research methods, not about academia. Apr 4, 2017 at 8:18
  • 1
    It is still a question related to research methods within an academic context as far as I am aware.
    – DottoreM
    Apr 4, 2017 at 8:28
  • Did you go through IRB? Did they have any suggestions?
    – Dawn
    Apr 4, 2017 at 23:11
  • When I have a question or request that is likely to be misunderstood, I start out with a phone call, to make that human connection. Apr 5, 2017 at 6:06
  • @Dawn, the advice I got from 'Academics' was to not mention my being a part of an organisation up-front so as not to scare them off, but then inform them politely if I can get a conversation flowing
    – DottoreM
    Apr 6, 2017 at 7:18

1 Answer 1


In the US, if you are conducting a survey or certain type of interview, you need to have it approved (or declared exempt) by your campus IRB committee. This body will regulate what you need to disclose, and will also approve the wording of any cover letter.

In a written context, putting the cover letter on school letterhead should convey that the project is academic.

In an interview, you would likely state that you are a PhD student at UNIVERSITY and are working on a dissertation related to X to convey that your project is an academic one.

  • I just realized it is not clear from the question if this is a survey or an interview.
    – Dawn
    Apr 6, 2017 at 14:01
  • I was thinking more on the lines of an interview since I need to ask a number of open-ended questions
    – DottoreM
    Apr 6, 2017 at 14:36
  • 1
    Okay, I think you should still work with IRB to make sure your project is complying with the rules and is exempt. Should probably be exempt if you are asking information on organizations and not information on individuals.
    – Dawn
    Apr 6, 2017 at 14:57

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