Before you start talking with people and record their information, it’s imperative you tell them what you are up to and get their permission. This process is called informed consent.
Informed consent has two steps:
- Information Sheet: Tell participants what they will be required to do and what that means
- Consent Form: Require participants to read and sign that they agree to the above
Depending on how vulnerable your population may be, you may need to be more or less detailed in your informed consent process and research methods. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to research participants. This is their life you’re talking about here.
Participant Consent Form Example
Review the Halcion Participant Informed Consent Example (Google Document) to see an example of a consent form I am using for my own research.
The Informed Consent Process
When obtaining consent, give the participant a copy of your participant Information Sheet for their keeping and future reference. Have participants sign the Participant Consent form and return it to you before they begin the interview
Online Surveys and Informed Consent
If participants are completing an online survey, make sure they must agree to the Informed Consent information before they can advance to any screen that allows participants to answer survey questions. This will ensure that they have agreed to any risks of the research before they participate. Build your form with these pages:
- Consent Page: Features consent information and a radio button question so participants can answer “yes” they consent to the study.
- The Survey: The actual survey, only accessible if participants respond “yes” to the consent question.
Informed Consent Basics
Having operated several research projects, I have learned a lot about informed consent procedures. A few tips:
- Make sure participants know that their participation will not affect their employment or grades
- Be sensitive to the fact that some information you are seeking could be hard for people to share because it could bring up difficult memories
- If you promise you will safeguard participants’ information, then make sure you can do it
- Be aware that identity theft is a real fear and some participants may be worried about the safety of their information
The best rule of thumb when it comes to research is to treat participants as if they were your own family. Take care of them and be kind.
Consent Form Wisdom
After years of students sending stuff to the Institutional Review Board for review, I have learned some bulletproof tips for creating consent forms that work. Here they are.
Survey and Interview Consent Forms
- Within the first sentence, introduce yourself, your faculty advisor, and affiliation with Miami University.
- Provide a statement regarding the purpose of the study.
- Add a statement as to how long the survey will take to complete.
- Provide a statement regarding the risks and benefits associated with the study.
- Provide a statement as to where the data will be stored.
- Provide a statement as to where the data will be disseminated.
- Provide your faculty advisor’s contact information should the subject wish to contact them.
- Provide a statement that the subject must be at least 18 years of age to participate.
- Provide a statement that the subject may skip any questions or quit at any time without penalty.
- List Miami’s office contact as Miami University’s Research Ethics & Integrity Program.
Recruiting Survey Participants for Further Research
For some studies, it may make sense to invite survey participants to participate in an interview. To collect contact information regarding the interview, create a link to a separate survey. This way, the interview subject’s identities will not be linked to their survey responses.
I have provided a few “starter” boilerplate forms you can use and customize below (shared Google Documents).
Participant Information Sheet Starter
The more transparent you can be with participants, the more likely you will earn and keep their trust.