Guidelines for informed consent

  • Potential participants must be given sufficient information to allow them to decide whether or not they want to take part in a research study.

    Where research involves face to face interviews, focus groups, direct observation or similar methods of data collection, participants should be given an information sheet (or leaflet) and asked to sign a consent form. Details of what should be included in each are given below. An information sheet should be written in simple, non-technical terms and be easily understood by a lay person. While it is always important to ensure that adequate information is given, the way in which the information is presented will need to be adapted to the individual circumstances of the study, for example a younger age group.

    Consent form

    Similarly, clear evidence must be obtained that the participant has given informed consent to take part in the study. This will usually be in the form of a signed consent form although other evidence may be acceptable (for example by audio recording consent).

    Opt-in consent is the University’s preferred approach. Opt-out is problematic where no response is assumed as opt-out as this approach does not reflect a conscious decision by those invited to accept or decline an invitation to participate in research. Requests for opt-out consent will only be considered in exceptional cases and a full explanation should be provided.

    Where participants are asked to complete and return a questionnaire, the questionnaire should be accompanied by a participant information sheet but no consent form is needed as consent is implied by returning the questionnaire. Please note: This method of consent for questionnaires/surveys will change in May 2018 following the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

    Participant information sheet

    The information sheet, covering letter or leaflet should be printed on Brookes headed paper (where appropriate) with full contact details and should normally contain the following information:

    Study title
    The title should be simple and self-explanatory to a lay person.

    Invitation paragraph
    This should explain that the individual is being asked to take part in a research study. The following is an example of how this may be phrased:

    'You are being invited to take part in a research study. Before you decide whether or not to take part, it is important for you to understand why the research is being done and what it will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully'.

    What is the purpose of the study?
    The background and the aim of the study should be given here. You should say how long the study will run and outline the overall design of the study.

    Why have I been invited to participate?
    You should explain how the individual was chosen to take part in the study and how many other people will be asked to participate.

    Do I have to take part?
    You should explain that taking part in the research is entirely voluntary. For example, you could say: -

    'It is up to you to decide whether or not to take part. If you do decide to take part you will be given this information sheet to keep and be asked to sign a consent form. If you decide to take part you are still free to withdraw at any time and without giving a reason." 

    If your study involves the recruitment of students or pupils you must explain that by choosing to either take part or not take part in the study will have no impact on their marks, assessments or future studies.

    What will happen to me if I take part?
    You should explain your methods of data collection, including what the individual will be asked to do and how much time will be involved.

    What are the possible disadvantages and risks of taking part? (where appropriate)
    You should describe any disadvantages or 'costs' involved in taking part in the study, including the time involved.

    What are the possible benefits of taking part?
    You should outline any direct benefits for the individual and any other beneficial outcomes of the study, including furthering our understanding of the topic.

    Will what I say in this study be kept confidential?
    You should explain that all information collected about the individual will be kept strictly confidential (subject to legal limitations) and describe how confidentiality, privacy and anonymity will be ensured in the collection, storage and publication of research material.

    Research data must be kept securely at all times, especially when collected in the field before being transferred back to Oxford Brookes University. Laptops and other devices should be encrypted; password protection alone is not adequate. Data may be stored in Google Drive, for which the University has a security agreement.

    Data generated by the study must be retained in accordance with the University's policy on Academic Integrity. You should include a statement that the data generated in the course of the research must be kept securely in paper or electronic form for a period of ten years after the completion of a research project.

    If it is a condition of your research funding that the research data must be shared and stored in a repository, you must explain how the data will be stored (for example with the UK Data Service or the UK Data Archive) and explain it will be anonymised.

    What should I do if I want to take part?
    Explain exactly how the participant should 'opt in' for the study.

    What will happen to the results of the research study?
    You should tell the individual what will happen to the results of the research. Will they be used in your dissertation or thesis? For what degree? Will they be published? How can they obtain a copy of the published research?

    Who is organising and funding the research?
    You should explain that you are conducting the research as a member of staff or a student at Oxford Brookes University. Give your department name as well as the faculty. You should also state the organisation that is funding the research (e.g. Economic and Social Research Council, Nuffield Foundation, Tesco, etc) if appropriate.

    Who has reviewed the study?
    You may state that the research has been approved by the University Research Ethics Committee, Oxford Brookes University.

    Contact for Further Information
    You should give the individual a contact point for further information. This can be your name or that of your supervisor. You should add that if they have any concerns about the way in which the study has been conducted, they should contact the Chair of the University Research Ethics Committee on ethics@brookes.ac.uk.

    Thank you
    Remember to thank the individual for taking time to read the information sheet.

    Date
    The information sheet should be dated.