Informed Consent Is Important!

This is one of the most significant aspects of your study and one to which we pay careful attention as we review your research study. There are 8 important elements required for informed consent. These are explained in more detail in the document Obtaining Consent. In addition, there will be numerous points at which you will be dealing with informed consent as you progress through the application process.

Different Forms for Different Folks

One of the first questions to ask when developing your informed consent procedure is whether or not your study has anonymity or can only provide confidentiality for your participants. This determines whether you will use a signed Consent Form or a written Cover Letter. More information is provided in the document Determining Informed Consent Procedure.

Be sure you include all the information that is applicable to your research study once you have decided on the appropriate form (i.e., either the signed consent or the written cover letter). Word the information about your study carefully; see the examples for computer-based surveys, email materials, theatre presentations, and focus groups on a sample Consent Form. Some of the most common errors that require researchers to respond to stipulations include:

  • Being inconsistent in numbers of participants or amount of time the study is expected to take when we compare the research proposal and the informed consent;
  • Failing to include details about yourselves as researchers (i.e., psychology student conducting the study for a requirement in a research methods course, or sociology student completing a capstone project) in the first paragraph of the consent materials;
  • Writing the description of the study in such a vague way that the participants do not know what to expect when asked questions (NOTE: Solve this problem by giving actual examples of the wording with possible answer options);
  • Confusing anonymity and confidentiality by using the description of one with the terminology for the other.

See this Checklist for other questions you should ask yourself once you have a draft of your informed consent.

Moving Beyond the Basics: Advice on Consent

We have some additional recommendations for you if you are:

  • Conducting surveys on-line;
  • Conducting focus groups or discussions within group settings;
  • Debriefing following deception;
  • Doing research internationally.

These are all provided as part of our Moving Beyond the Basics webpage.