Potential subjects of research must have sufficient information about the project to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate. For most projects, this information will be provided as an information sheet. An alternative is to include the information in an introductory letter to potential subjects.
A useful technique in writing an information sheet is to put yourself in the shoes of the proposed subject. Think about what a person would want to know about the project so that he/she can decide whether or not to participate. Below are the main questions that the information sheet will need to cover. Researchers should consider this not merely an ethical requirement but a chance to communicate with their potential subjects.
The level of detail needed to adequately inform the potential participant will vary with the nature of the participation and particularly with the degree of risk or harm involved. Use plain English and avoid acronyms and jargon. Researchers should consider the background and circumstances of the subjects and what information they would like to have. Use positive (‘politically correct’) language.
Be sure the information of most concern to subjects is emphasised, e.g. by placing it near the beginning of the information sheet. For example, in some projects confidentiality may be particularly important.
Include a note that the participant will be given copies of the information sheet and statement of informed consent to keep.
The information sheet should be on Anglicare letterhead.
What is it?
Give the name of the project and a brief, easily understandable overview.
Who are you?
Give the name of the organisation(s) involved, the principal researcher and any other researchers who will have direct involvement with the research participants.
Why are you doing it?
Explain the purpose of the research, what the outcomes will be, and how the research may be beneficial to the community.
Explain who it is we wish to talk to and how they will be identified and selected. Explain if there are any specific criteria for inclusion or exclusion.
Do I have to?
Emphasise that participation is voluntary and subjects can withdraw at any time without needing to provide an explanation. Let them know there will be no negative consequences for themselves if they refuse to participate or withdraw.
What will I be asked to do?
Fully explain the procedures and describe in detail what the participant will be asked to do. If possible give specific times and places. Any photographs, audio or video recording should be mentioned.
Will I be reimbursed?
Give details of any reimbursements. Participants may be reimbursed for inconvenience and time spent. In some cases it may also be appropriate to reimburse travel expenses. Reimbursements must not be so large as to be an inducement to participate.
Are there any risks?
Consider all risks which might affect a person’s willingness to participate. Risks may include psychological effects such as emotional distress or embarrassment, social effects such as stigmatisation and possibly legal effects. Explain how you plan to minimise and mitigate risks for participants (e.g. by providing an opportunity to ‘debrief’ with a counsellor).
What about privacy?
Explain how research data will be kept confidential, including how long it will be kept for, who will have access to it and whether it might be reused for another project.
How will it be published?
Explain what the final published research will look like, how it will be made available, and who is likely to use it.
Who do I contact?
Give names and telephone numbers of people that the participant can contact for more information, concerns or complaints. Inform participants that if they have any ethical concerns or complaints about the manner in which the project is conducted they may contact the Chief Executive Officer of Anglicare.
See also the University of Tasmania’s Human Research Ethics Committee Social Science Research Information Sheet
This guide was provided by Anglicare Tasmania