Institutional Review Board

Helping Potential Subjects Understand Your Research

Tips for Conveying Information

Language. When communicating with your subjects orally or in writing, present information clearly and concisely. Use simple, everyday language and avoid jargon. If it is necessary to use scientific medical, or legal terms, define them.

Appearance - The Consent Document. Use fonts, font sizes, and margins that make the consent document(s) easy to read. Break up large sections of text with headings. It is more important for a document to look clean and attractive than it is for it to be confined to one page.

Audience. When more than one group of subjects is involved in your research, tailor consent information/documents to each group. For example, observing adult classrooms would require informed consent from both instructors and students: you may want to develop separate consent forms for each. In addition, consent information/documents should reflect the capacities of those invited to participate. For example, an assent document for 8 year-olds should be much simpler than a consent document for adults.

Overall Effectiveness. Ask others who are unfamiliar with your research to review your consent information/documents and provide feedback. Is it understandable? Should any information be added or removed? Is it easy to read?