Food and Brand Lab Research Standard Operating Procedures

Version 1.5 (Last Revised 7-14-2017)

Food and Brand Lab was founded in 1997 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and it moved to Cornell in 2005 with this mission: “We change how food is purchased, prepared, and consumed. Using new tools of behavioral science, we invent healthy eating solutions for consumers, companies, and communities.” The principle mission of the Lab is to impact eating-related changes in a broad community. 

A Note to New Researchers:  We are fortunate to have a dynamic group of people in our Lab. In addition to the full-time staff and post-docs, about two-thirds of the people in the Lab visit for less than a year – most for only three months. Following their time with us, they return to their home country or home university. While here, these visiting researchers join on-going projects, start new ones, and become immersed in our day-to-day work and adventures. Visitors bring a wide range of experience from different disciplines that each have their own norms and standards for research.

When people leave the Lab and return home, they have a new life. What they’ve started or worked on at the Lab becomes a past chapter in their life.  It becomes difficult for them to complete these past projects, or for new researchers to pick up where they left off. This lack of continuity can be challenging.

This explicit set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for research helps provide continuity, supervision, and quality control. Some of these procedures will take extra time and may initially seem like a burden. However, these procedures lead to better discoveries, greater ease in following up on projects, and fewer “orphaned” projects. These SOPs are also designed to help minimize unintended research errors.  Furthermore, considering that data management practices and rules are rapidly changing, the implementation of SOPs will help the Lab to respond to changes in requirements.

A. BEFORE Arrival

When you learn that you are accepted into the Lab (or hired) it is time to begin preparing. If you’re hired as a new staff member (who will be involved in research) or research assistant, you will be asked to complete four tasks within your first week on the job. If you’re a new researcher – visiting professor, post-doc, visiting graduate student, or intern – we ask that you complete these before you arrive. They’ll be the subject of your Day 1 orientation:

Before Arrival Checklist

[] A1. Read this SOP document

[] A2. Take the on-line IRB training and become certified      

Provide your completion certificate to the publications assistant for archiving 

[] A3. Read at least 2 of the articles on scientific replication

[] A4. Read the website and links found at:


Research projects usually result from two or three people brainstorming a concept, gaining IRB approval, running the study, and analyzing the data to see if it worked. To design even better studies, all Lab researchers are expected to participate in a weekly research workshop. Part of the workshop is dedicated to brainstorming, critiquing, and modifying new study ideas.

To ensure project continuity, researchers must complete a Research Action Plan (Appendix A) that outlines the original reasons for data collection. It is highly recommended that in this phase, researchers work closely with the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit on designing the analysis. The plan must include: 

A code name should be unique and concise. It will be used for labeling and archiving all documents related to the project, for the IRB application, and throughout the submission process. Please pick something that makes sense and is easy for all parties involved to identify and recall.

The full names and email addresses for each person involved in the research (data collection, analysis, paper writing) must be included. If a researcher is at Cornell temporarily, they must include a personal or permanent email address that will still be active and checked upon leaving the university. 

As appropriate, the hypotheses should be preregistered and/or archived on a site such as (studies with grant funding), (field and panel studies with no grant funding), or CISER (unfunded lab studies). If registered, the link should be included in the Research Analysis Plan.  

This section should include a detailed description of how the study will be run including proposed locations and times. It should also include a description of any materials that will be used including surveys, measuring devices, and a sample size calculation. 

Sample Size: If no power analysis is possible in the planning phase, a two-step procedure should be followed:

  1. First, researchers must outline the design for a pilot study with a small sample to obtain the needed information to estimate the appropriate sample size for the study. NOTE: IRB approval MUST be obtained to run the pilot study (see section C for details). Conservative estimates of variance must be used to estimate sample size. An 80% power must be used to detect a medium-sized effect. For example, when comparing two groups at least 64 subjects per group are needed to be able to detect a difference in means of 0.5 standard deviations using a two-sided test (alpha = 0.05) with a probability of 0.80.  Because it’s not always easy to get 200 subjects for lab or field studies) designs may need to be simplified or the intervention or manipulations may need to be modified to be strong while still being realistic.
  2. Second, researchers should aim to produce multi-study papers that involve replications or extensions. 

The description should include any statistical analysis and methodology that will be used including:  

  • Statistical analysis method: ANOVA, ANCOVA, regression, correlation, descriptive, etc.
  • Type of methodology: quantities, qualitative or mixed
  • Sample collection type: snowball, convenience, etc.  
  • Software for data collection and/or analysis: Qualtrics, SPSS, Stata, R, etc.
  • Covariates – Gender, time of day, BMI, etc.
  • Independent Variables
  • Dependent Variables

Planning and Designing Checklist

[] B1. Present the research idea in the weekly workshop for brainstorming and seek approval by Lab director, deputy director, publications assistant to move forward.

[] B2. Complete the Research Action Plan template for each new project (collaboration with CSCU highly recommended). Submit to publications assistant for archiving.

[] B3. Submit any updates in Research Action Plan to publications assistant (ongoing)    

C. Acquiring IRB Approval

Once the plan is complete, the researcher must work with deputy director and publications assistant to determine if there are any existing IRB processes that cover the research plan (ie. studies in lunchrooms can be included as an amendment in existing IRB). Next, the researcher leading the project must either complete an Amendment Application, a Protocol Approval Request Application or an Exemption Application to submit to the university's IRB with the Research Action Plan attached.  If there are any doubts about the process or which application to complete, researchers should reach out to the Food and Brand Lab's IRB representative directly. 

The IRB application should include the following information/documentation, as relevant, and all files submitted must be named appropriately (see E. Storing Data) with the “code name” listed in the Research Action Plan: 

  • Completed Research Action Plan
  • Blank consent, recruitment, and debriefing forms
  • Information about any photos or videos that you intend to take (with necessary consent forms)
  • Description of the procedures for the experiment
  • Description of all materials used in the experiment
  • Description of what participants will be asked to do
  • Blank Surveys
  • List and description of measuring devices (include images/screenshots as appropriate)
  • List of all reserchers involved in the project 

Once all documentation is compiled and the application is complete it must be sent to the publications assistant to edit for accuracy and completeness. Once approved internally, the lead researcher must submit the application to IRB directly and can copy the publications assistant. When approved, approval documentation must be submitted to publications assistant for filing. All changes to the experiment, including adding researchers, must be submitted to IRB for an amendment and to the publications assistant for filing.

IRB Checklist

[] C1. Collect and organize all necessary documents 
[] C2. Complete an Amendment Application, a Protocol Approval Request Application or an Exemption Application and submit to the publications assistant for editing 
[] C3. Submit the application directly to the IRB and edit as requested 
[] C4. Submit Approved Application or Approved Exemption form to the publications assistant for filing 
[] C5. Submit any changes to the experiment to IRB an amendment and to the publications assistant for filing 



When the lead researcher is not a Food and Brand Lab member, they must be supervised for at least 80% of the study’s sessions.

For observational studies the date, time, location of the data collected, and name of the collector should be noted on every page of data collection sheets (digital and paper).

Researchers should take a photo of the study set-up. Location and stimuli information will be recorded, labeled consistent to the naming convention, and saved under materials (see Appendix B).

If people gave consent to be filmed and IRB approval was granted, a brief 1-minute walkthrough of the procedure can filmed.

Following the study, the researchers should complete a detailed summary the study. All documents (coding sheets, list of materials, surveys (scanned or downloaded), photos, recordings, etc.) must be named and filed according to the convention outlined in Appendix B and given to the publications assistant for filing.  

[]D1. If lead researcher is not a Food and Brand Lab member, a FBL professor or post doc should attend the introduction or debriefing of at least 80% of sessions

[]D2. Create and use data collection sheets (digital or paper) that include date and time of collection, location of collection, and the name of the person doing the collection

[]D3. Take photos of study set up. Record (image or text) a description of study location and stimuli

[]D4. If consent and IRB approval was granted, film a short walkthrough of the study procedure

[]D5. Fill out a summary of what occured during the experiment 

[]D6. Use naming convention and organizational structure in Appendix B to organize files and provide them to the publications assistant for filling


Applying this naming convention and organizational structure to all files must be done to ensure that researchers can be caught up on “orphaned projects.” The structure and convention should be used by all researchers and all documents should be supplied to the publications assistant to file once they are complete.  

All files name must include the following:

  • Date
    • Full year must be first
    • Separate year, month date with periods and use dashes (-) for time period
  • Code name (ForeignWeight, GlutenFree)
    • Same code name in Research Action Plan and IRB
  • Descriptive words (Survey, Scan, Analysis, materials, lit rev)
  • Use underscore in place of spaces


  • 2017.07.12_Racecar_SurveyScan_01
  • (if necessary)

Include the following information within each document when possible: 

  • Location (Lab, 401, US, Mall, MTurk, Panel, or City/State)
  • Initials or name of who collected it
  • Column and row labels that indicate variables and/or units of measurement


pound #

angle bracket < or >

dollar(currency) sign $

percent %

exclamation/question ! or ?

ampersand &

asterisk *

single quote ‘

double quote “

bracket { or }

forward or back slash / or \

Colon :

At sign @

Blank Space



See Appendix B for filing structure and example.

[]E1. Use the naming convention for all files

[]E2. Use the filing structure for all files

[]E3. Send all completed files to publications assistant for filing


Clean Data

After data is initially entered, the original data file must be saved (using naming/filing convention in E. Storing Data) with the identifier “original” and the cleaned and de-identified file (if unique identifiers are used in collection) with the identifier “cleaned” in the file name. The cleaned files must include:

  • Detailed notes of all changes that were made in cleaning
  • The names of those who did the cleaning 

Then the original and cleaned data file must be given to the publications assistant to archive.

Analyze Data

All analysis must be done using a copy of the cleaned data and must contain a detailed analysis script detailing everything being done including:

  • Detailed description of analysis performed and analysis programs used
  • All new data definitions and other procedures necessary to conduct the analysis beginning with the cleaned data set
  • Where each analysis appears in the tables, figures, and/or text in any resulting manuscript (must be added later and updated copy given to publications assistant)
  • The name of the individual(s) authoring the script
  • Syntax
  • Output

Once complete, the analysis scripts and comments must be given to the publications assistant for filing.

Verify Analysis

Next, the data file and analysis scripts must be verified by the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit (CSCU). The process of verification will certify that the numbers appearing in any manuscript are those produced by the script file and the data. The author is responsible for communicating with CSCU and working with them until verification has been achieved.

When analysis is verified, the cleaned & de-identified data and analysis scripts must be sent to the publications assistant for filing and can be sent to CISER for sharing.

Analyzing Data Checklist

[]F1. Clean data files and submit original and cleaned documents to publications assistant for archiving

[]F2. Use cleaned data to analyze and include a complete script and comments of all actions taken and give to publications assistant for archiving  

[]F3. Submit original and cleaned data file and script with comments to the CSCU for verification.

[]F4. Upon verification send cleaned data and script to the publications assistant for filing and to CISER for sharing when appropriate

G. Writing the Paper and Avoiding Duplicate Passages

To be certain that duplicate passages or publications do not occur, all papers must be run through a software program that will help identify any duplicate passages before submission to a journal. Authors must either quote or rewrite any passage that is one or more sentences and cite the original work. If extensive revisions are required before the paper is accepted, the author is encouraged to do this again when the paper is conditionally accepted.

There are occasions when it may be appropriate to publish similar findings from an already published data set. These occasions are when invited to write an article for another journal or when invited to expand a short journal article into a larger book chapter. "Salami research" is not acceptable. Due to copyright, the researcher must also gain permission to reproduce part of the original work including figures, tables and text.

Writing the Paper Checklist

[] G1. Cite any other papers using part of the same data set, even unpublished or working papers.

[] G2. Run the paper though duplication software to avoid plagiarism of any sort.

[] G3. Conduct a last check for other internal IRB submissions on this topic and conduct web-searchers for related unpublished papers. Include any relevant studies found in the references.

H. Finalizing THE PAPER

Exploratory Analysis: 

If exploratory analysis is used, authors must underscore the exploratory nature in the abstract, introduction, results, discussion, and limitations, and state explicitly whether the analysis is in accordance with the original plan or not.

Proprietary Data: 

If the data used in the paper is proprietary and cannot be shared, the researcher must be extremely clear with the journal what can and cannot be shared. If data is proprietary, it must be emphasized in three different places: 1) in the letter to the editor, 2) in the first paragraph of the methods section, and 3) in the acknowledgements and author information footnote of the paper. Always inform the publications assistant if the data is proprietary prior to the first submission and provide the specific dates, times and location(s) of data collection.

All nonproprietary data sets and analysis scripts of accepted papers should be made available upon reasonable request. Proprietary data will not be made available as must be clearly specified in a paper’s methodology section as well as in the acknowledgements, author information footnote, and in the letter to the editor. For data that is published prior to April 2017, the Food and Brand Lab will address requests on a paper-by-paper basis.

Finalizing the Paper Checklist

[]H1. Include description of exploratory analysis in abstract, introduction, results, discussion and limitations, if relevant. State if exercise is in accordance with the original analysis or not.

[]H2. If data is proprietary, state that in the letter to the editor, the method section, acknowledgement, and author information footnote.

[]H3. Work with publications assistant to ensure compliance with journal policies and timeliness.

I. Submitting the paper

The lead author must work with the publications assistant to ensure that each submission is recorded, feedback from the reviewers is carefully processed and documented, and that the paper is adjusted according to reviewer comments until a revise and resubmit (R&R) is received. Reviewing any reject or R&R reviewer comments and suggestions is essential, as they may contain useful information that could help improve the manuscript. Upon receiving an R&R authors may consider adding additional studies to address questions. They must be sure to amend the IRB and archive all new files with publications assistant.

If the review process for either rejections or R&Rs did not require more data analysis, the original data analysis will remain on CISER. If reanalysis is required during the review process the new analysis scripts and log files must be submitted again for verification with CSCU and added to CISER.  All researchers must make sure that the data is appropriately de-identified and that the variable list is easy to follow. 

Submitting the Paper Checklist

[]I1. Work with publications assistant on submissions and revisions

[]I2. If suggested by reviewers, conduct reanalysis and have new analysis verified by CSCU and archive new analyses at CISER  

[]I3. If suggested by reviewers, consider conducting additional studies and apply for an IRB amendment to do so, if needed

[]I4. If performed, submit new study documents to publications assistant to archive

Appendix A

Research Action Plan

A template and example will be available here to download shortly

Appendix B


yyyy.mm_CodeName (ex: 2017.07_Racecar)




  • Proposal
  • Approval-Waiver
  • Amendments




  • List of measuring implements

  • Blank Version of Survey


  • Scanned surveys

  • Downloaded online surveys

  • Photos

  • Recordings



  • Outputs

  • Syntax

  • Tables



  • List of measuring implements

  • Blank Version of Survey


  • Scanned surveys

  • Downloaded online surveys

  • Photos

  • Recordings



  • Outputs

  • Syntax

  • Tables