Informing participants

Informing participants

Giving potential participants enough information about the research in an understandable form needs careful drafting of the information sheet. You should carry out at least one pilot test of the procedure for informing and debriefing participants with a naïve person who has a low literacy level in the range expected in the research sample. In certain circumstances the aims of the research may be compromised by giving full information prior to data collection. In such cases, it should be made clear that this is the case in the information sheet and the means by which the withheld information will be given at the conclusion of data collection should be specified. The amount of information withheld and the delay in disclosing the withheld information should be kept to the absolute minimum necessary.
The information sheet given to potential participants for them to keep should normally give a clear statement of all those aspects of the research that are relevant for their decision about whether or not to agree to participation. Here are some headings for consideration: 

  • The aim(s) of the project 
  • The type(s) of data to be collected 
  • The method(s) of collecting data 
  • Confidentiality and anonymity conditions associated with the data including any exceptions to confidentiality, for example, with respect to potential disclosures 
  • Compliance with the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act. More information is available from the Assistant Head (Information Compliance)

These pages have been adapted from the GCU code of good practice in research, the GCU research ethics booklet, and the BPS code of human research ethics.