Eight Major Parts of Informed Consent

A consent form adapted to in-depth interviewing should cover eight major parts:

  1. An invitation to participate in what, to what end, how, how long, and for whom?The first part of an informed consent form should state explicitly that the potential participant is being invited to take part in a research study. This introduction would be followed with a brief statement of the purpose of the research, how it will be conducted, for how long, and whether there are any sponsors of the research.
  2. Risks: The second part should outline the potential risks of vulnerability or discomfort for the participant that might result from taking part in the research.
  3. Rights, The third part should outline the rights of the participants. These rights are designed to mitigate the risks of vulnerability and discomfort and should include an explicit statement that participation in the research is voluntary and that refusal to participate would carry no penalty.
  4. Possible benefits The fourth part of the informed consent form would modestly outline the possible benefits of the study in general and for the participant in particular.
  5. Confidentiality of records. This fifth part should outline the steps the researcher will take to make sure the participant’s identity is kept confidential and the extent to which that confidentiality might be limited.
  6. Dissemination, The sixth part should indicate how the researcher intends to disseminate the results of the research, and seek explicit release for the extensive use of the participant’s words in, for example, a dissertation, book, article, or presentation.
  7. Special conditions for children, In this seventh part, the researcher should stipulate that for children under 18, a parent or guardian must consent for the child to participate.
  1. Contact information and copies of the form, The final part clarifies how to contact the researcher and the local IRB if participants have questions about their rights or anything else about the research project. In addition, researchers must assure that they have written the form in language that the potential participant is able to comprehend fully.

I have resisted the temptation to replicate a sample of an informed consent form. Since local IRBs have considerable autonomy within fed­eral guidelines, they will develop their own template for researchers to follow. In addition, I think merely copying an example could lead a re­searcher into trouble. I urge doctoral candidates and other researchers to grapple with the logic of each of the parts of an informed consent form. They then can develop a written consent form based on their un­derstanding of the purpose of each part, the particulars of their research project, and the expectations of their IRB. In my experience, doing so leads to researchers’ better internalizing the ethical issues involved and improving how they conduct their research. In what follows, I discuss in more depth issues embedded in each of the eight major parts of the con­sent form as they apply to in-depth interviewing research.

Source: Seidman Irving (2006), Interviewing As Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education And the Social Sciences, Teachers College Press; 3rd edition.

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