Understanding Issues of Informed Consent

Activity

Understanding Issues of Informed Consent

STUDENT HANDOUT

Produce an information sheet that can be given to your research participants. It should contain all the information they need about your research so that they can decide whether or not to give their informed consent to take part. This sheet would be given to participants before they take part in the research and should be retained by them throughout the research process.

‘Informed consent’ in research is an agreement that is made by a participant to take part in the research, based on an understanding of what is involved. For this consent to be valid it must be informed, voluntary, free and given by a person who has the capacity to make the decision. A person must understand the purpose, benefits and potential risks of taking part in your research and must be given time to make their decision.

 

The following points will help you to produce your information sheet:

  • Think carefully about how much information and the type of information that is required to help participants make an informed decision about whether or not to take part in your research. This could include, for example, information about the goals of the research, the length and degree of commitment required, opt-in and opt-out clauses, and issues of anonymity and confidentiality. When doing this, ensure that you address the whole research process, including data collection, analysis and dissemination of results.
  • Make sure that you do not mislead your participants or try to persuade them to take part when it might not be the best course of action (perhaps because participation may induce harm or lead to problems with existing relationships, for example). However, in some studies it may be necessary to try a little persuasion to overcome issues with volunteer bias; if this is the case with your research, be aware that there is a fine line between tactical persuasion and duress. Participants should not be coerced, whether implicitly or explicitly, into taking part in your research.
  • Use terms that are easily understood by the people who will take part in your research. Pay attention to clarity and comprehension.
  • Don’t overwhelm your participants with unnecessary and/or incomprehensible detail about the subject of the research, the nature of social inquiry, methodology or social theory, for example.
  • If your research is with ‘vulnerable’ groups (those with a disability, children, or those in a dependent relationship with the researcher, for example) you must pay particular attention to the issue of informed consent. Take care not to use persuasion (whether explicit or implicit) and ensure that your information sheet can be understood (in some cases you may need to present this information orally, rather than in written form). If you are dealing with a proxy, you will need to provide appropriate information to help them make an informed choice on behalf of the participant.

Once you have produced your information sheet, upload it under Quiz 4 option on Blackboard.

 

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