Suggestions for Wording in Specific Situations
The following are examples of wording for use in specific situations such as:
- Classroom recruitment
- Aggregated data
- Using quotations
- Confidentiality in focus groups
- Confidentiality in small groups or communities
- Giving participants the option to review transcripts
- Obtaining oral consent
If participants are solicited from classroom environments, it is important that they be assured that their instruction will not be made aware of who did or did not participate. This is especially true if the instructor is involved in the research project (to any degree); or there is otherwise a possibility students will feel coerced to participate. The following is an example of wording that could be used in your consent form and recruitment materials in this case:
“Your instructor will not know until after the grades have been submitted who has decided to participate and who has not, so that your decision to participate or withdraw cannot have any impact on your standing in the class or on your final grade.”
It may be wise to inform participants whose data will only be reported in aggregate form (i.e. combined with all other collected data). This may benefit both parties: participants may feel more at ease that their data will not be 'singled out', and thus, may result in a more open and free participation.
“Although the data from this research project will be published and presented at conferences, the data will be reported in aggregate form, so that it will not be possible to identify individuals. Moreover, the consent forms will be stored separately from the [materials used], so that it will not be possible to associate a name with any given set of responses. Please do not put your name or other identifying information on the [materials used].”
If you foresee using quotations from participants (e.g. from an interview), the exact nature of the quotations to be used, and how they will be anonymized should be adequately explained to the participant during the consent process.
“The data from this research project will be published and presented at conferences; however, your identity will be kept confidential. Although we will report direct quotations from the interview, you will be given a pseudonym, and all identifying information [list relevant possibilities such as the name of the institution, the participant’s position, etc.] will be removed from our report.”
When data is collected through the use of focus groups, it is impossible for researchers to guarantee their participants' confidentiality. While a researcher may do everything in their power to assure what a participant says remains confidential, there is no way to guarantee other participants present in the focus group will do the same. All participants should be reminded of this inherent limit to confidentiality in a focus group setting.
"Although the researcher will safeguard the confidentiality of the discussion to the best of his/her ability, the nature of focus groups prevents the researcher from guaranteeing that other members of the group will do so. Please respect the confidentiality of the other members of the group by not repeating what is said in the focus group to others, and be aware that other members of the group may not respect your confidentiality.”
Confidentiality when, because of a small group or community, a participant might be identified on the basis of what they have said:
When researchers collect data from a small group of people (e.g. from a small community, or a single company) there is a chance that participants could be identified by others from things they have said. When this is a possibility in your study, you should remind participants.
“Because the participants for this research project have been selected from a small group of people, all of whom are known to each other, it is possible that you may be identifiable to other people on the basis of what you have said.”
If participants will be permitted to review transcripts of their participation (e.g. after an interview). You should clearly explain, before their participation, to what extent they will be allowed to do so, including revising, adding, or deleting information after data has been collected.
“After your interview, and before the data are included in the final report, you will be able to review the transcript of your interview, and to add, change, or delete information from the transcripts as you see fit.”
If you choose to obtain oral consent from participants, rather than by asking them to sign a written / hard copy consent form, you must document the consent process in an alternative manner. For example, you may include the following statement in the consent form, and sign it to indicate that the process was followed, and that the participant freely consented to participate.
“I read and explained this consent form to the participant before receiving the participant’s consent, and the participant had knowledge of its contents and appeared to understand it.”
(Include name or pseudonym of participant, date, and signature of researcher.)