Step 4 – Consent and Assent

Most projects will require that you create a consent form for your subjects to sign before they participate in your research. By signing this form, participants certify that they understand the purpose of your project, what they will be asked to do, and how their data will be used. Informed consent is required for any project that involves the collection of data that is individually-identifiable (the researcher knows who participated and which responses they gave), even if responses are kept confidential during analyses and presentation. If you are meeting one-on-one with participants, are physically present as they are completing your study, are audio or video recording their responses, or are asking for participants’ names or other identifiable information in the survey or questionnaire you are administering, you MUST have them sign an informed consent form.

  • If your research involves legal adults, then you only need to have a consent form, which each of your research subjects must sign.
  • If any of your research involves minors (anyone under the age of 18), then you must have an assent form which must be presented to the minor’s guardian to sign.

The only projects that do NOT need to include a consent form are those for which all responses are truly anonymous. This means that the researcher is unaware of who is participating. For example, if a link to an on-line survey is sent out via email or posted online and no identifying information about each individual participant is collected or associated with their responses, the data can be considered anonymous and you do not need to include a consent form. However, it is still considered good practice to give a brief overview of the study in your email or first page of the on-line survey so that participants understand the nature of the questions they will be asked before they begin. If this is your situation, please include in your application the language that you would include in an email or at the beginning of the survey to make sure participants understand the nature of the study before they begin.

Still confused about whether you need to have a separate consent form for participants to sign? Try the Type of IRB Review Decision Tree for further explanation.

Step 5