Moving Beyond the Basics: Further Advice on Consent

There are research studies that require more than a basic consent or debriefing form. Based upon best practices across a wide range of universities and professional organizations, here are our recommendations for you to follow when preparing your research proposal:

How do I handle informed consent if I am conducting a survey on-line? (Click here.)

Click on this link for our HPRB PowerPoint presentation on Conducting Surveys On-Line

I might conduct focus groups or do interviews. I will have to record them somehow. What is important to consider? (Click here.)

Click on our presentation about obtaining consent Recording Interviews and Small Groups.

If I am doing a research project that just involves talking with people and no experiments, do I need to submit an HPRB application? (Click here.)

Probably. According to the federal regulations, “interactions” as well as “interventions” are included in the definition of human subjects research. Surveys, interviews, questionnaires, oral history interviews, etc. must be submitted for HPRB review if the faculty member or student intends to generalize the findings (by publishing the results or presenting them at a professional meeting).

I am doing research internationally. What do I have to do? (Click here.)

The same principles for protection of participants’ rights and welfare apply in these studies as in those conducted on our campus and in our local community. The local equivalent of our HPRB or local experts and community leaders within the country/international community being studied will need to provide permission for your study before you will receive final approval from HPRB.

You will need to describe your qualifications for performing your research in the community, including describing the cultural norms, local laws, age of majority, cultural sensitivities, and differences in autonomy for providing consent. The Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan has published Cross-Cultural Survey Guidelines that are internationally recognized as a resource for best practices.

HPRB will also need to have information about your ability to speak, read, and write the language of the potential participants, and the provisions made for a translator (if necessary).

My study involves deception. How does this change my consent & debriefing of participants? (Click here.)

The Belmont Report emphasizes three ethical principles, which are respect for persons, beneficence, and justice. Researchers must recognize the importance of these principles, especially when conducting human subjects research. When full disclosure of information to potential research participants is not possible without compromising the aims/goals of the research study, HPRB may approve a procedure that departs from the above. See ch. 4, section IV, p. 14 of the Policy Manual for situations in which deception may be allowed. But, HPRB will work closely with researchers to minimize deception if at all possible.

Because voluntary participation is an essential part of informed consent, the researcher must obtain written permission to use the participant’s data once the deception has been revealed. This is required even though the participant signed an informed consent before the study began. The written signed debriefing script for studies involving deception must include the actual purpose of the research, how and why the participant was deceived, and which parts of the study were real and false. Participants should be reminded again that their involvement is still voluntary and that they may choose to withdraw their data without penalty or loss of compensation. There should be separate signature lines for statements of “I DO” and “I DO NOT” give permission for the data collected during the study to be included.