Research Methods: Considering Ethics in your research

Eira Patterson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Providing information to participants

Usually information will be provided to participants in written form and (where appropriate) to gate keepers prior to gaining signed consent. It may also be necessary to provide information orally to ensure that participants understand the implications of becoming involved in the research as fully as possible.

In the design of the information sheet you need to think about how to balance providing sufficient information so that potential participants and gatekeepers can make an informed decision about involvement in the research, without overwhelming them with information. Also the wording and layout of the information sheet needs to be accessible and not off-putting. This checklist that will help you in the design of your information sheet:

  • Have you explained all of the necessary points about the research clearly?

Check that you have not used jargon and complex language which will make it difficult for the intended audience to understand?

  • Have you considered the layout of the information sheet?

Consider using text boxes, bullets and other approaches to formatting that will break up the text and make the information sheet look less daunting.

  • Are the key messages clear?

Check that the design of the sheet ensures that ethical aspects are clearly explained.

Below is a checklist of the key ethical issues that need to be explained on the information sheet to enable a process of ethical informed consent to be achieved:

  • Who will have access to the data prior to the process of anonymization?
  • What will the data will be used for? e.g. published as part of a dissertation, published to a wider audience such as part of a journal article
  • How will the data be stored and confidentiality ensured?
  • Is the right of individuals to withdraw from the research at any point clearly explained?

In order to gain a written record of consent it is also necessary to design a letter of consent. In the letter of consent you will need to repeat some of the information from the information sheet, in particular how you will ensure that you specify how the research will be conducted ethically. The information sheet will be retained by the participant and the consent form returned to you once it has been signed by the participant or their parent / guardian to agree informed consent for them to participate in the research project.

It is also possible to gain other forms of consent that do not rely on a written record, for example gaining verbal consent that could be audio recorded.

Information sheet example

Here is an example of the type of information that you could include in your information sheet.

Letter of consent example

Here is an example to help you design your letter of consent, outlining the type of information you will need to include.

The process of gaining informed consent from potential participants in your research is in itself a complex process in which you need to consider:

  • what information needs to be provided;
  • the form that this information should take;
  • who should be involved in the process of giving consent e.g. gatekeepers in addition to participants themselves;
  • how you will go about the process of gaining informed consent.