What information should you provide?
As a general rule, information should cover what a potential participant needs to know in order to give fully informed consent. You ought to cover the following information:
- who you are (the members of the research team and their contact details);
- what you are doing and why (the aims of the research, what’s happening, and what will be done with the research);
- what the research involves:
- how participants have been identified and approached;
- what participation involves (including any risks, inconvenience or discomfort – if appropriate – or any benefits. But be careful not to promise benefits if there are none); and
- what happens to the information they provide (including confidentiality, and any limits on that).
If the research is linked to a service that participants are receiving (for example, like teaching, or social work) you need to reassure them that the service they receive will not be affected, whether or not they decide to take part.
In explaining what happens to the information provided, you should provide information about whether you plan to archive the study data, and what that means. The UK Data Archive advises that ‘It should also be made clear who will have access to the information… information can be given about how data will be used’. See our section on consent to data archiving.
The Young Lives study - an international study of childhood poverty - provides a useful example of how the question of data archiving is approached in different contexts:
Explaining Data Archiving: The Young Lives study
The Young Lives research teams explain what archiving is, and reassure participants about anonymity, and disguising identifying features (of places, people, organizations) in preparing data for archiving. For example, in Peru, the term ‘un archivo’ is understood, since almost all villages and communities own archives with documentation regarding the village, which is for public consultation. Researchers in India suggested ‘stored in a computer’. In Vietnam, researchers noted:
“We used the word ’storage’ (pack and store away), pointing to a cupboard or wardrobe or trunk if any of those available in the house, or simply a box or a bag. Since we brought our laptop to the field, children saw us typing notes. We showed them what we typed – excerpts of transcripts of what they said (even if some can’t read) – and pictures (of their house, no person). We also replayed a short part of the tape to that they could hear their voices. We then explained that all of these will be kept in Hanoi and England for many years but nobody will know that these words are theirs or go after them because of what they said. The children and their family members were quite excited, some were scared at first, then became very proud”.