UCL Research Ethics Committee

Advice on Formulating Participant Information Sheets

Participant Information Sheets must be designed to assist participants to make informed choices. Potential recruits must be given sufficient information to allow them to decide whether or not they want to take part. The process of obtaining consent and the accompanying documentation must be approved by a research ethics committee and, where only verbal consent to research is contemplated, include consideration of an appropriate process for witnessing the consent.

Researchers must take the steps necessary to ensure that all participants in the research understand the process in which they are to be engaged, including why their participation is necessary, how it will be used and how and to whom it will be reported, so that the prospective participant can make an informed decision about whether (s)he really does want to take part.

It is highly recommended that the information provided is presented on headed paper and is accurate, clear and simple so that someone with a reading age of 8 would understand the contents (use short words, sentences and paragraphs). The information should be specific to the proposed research and appropriate for the social and cultural context in which is it being given. It is important to avoid technical terms, jargon and abbreviations, bias, coercion or any inappropriate inducements.

What should the information sheet include?

Language and Layout

It is highly recommended that the information provided is presented on headed paper and is accurate, clear and simple.The information should be specific to the proposed research and appropriate for the social and cultural context in which is it being given. It is important to avoid technical terms, jargon and abbreviations, bias, coercion or any inappropriate inducements.

The following points should be considered when writing an information sheet:

Ask someone else to review your information sheet before it is circulated.