Ethical requirements

Key sections of GFC 66: Human Research -- University of Alberta Standards for the Protection of Human Research Participants

Guiding ethical principles

Free and informed consent

Privacy and confidentiality

Ethical review includes the following elements:

Here are two example documents used in actual studies, which should help you to produce your own: 1. a consent form; 2. a debriefing. I have edited them a little from their original form.

1. Consent form

Consent Form

The Department of English & Film Studies supports the practice of providing safeguards for those who participate in research. The following information is offered to help you decide whether you wish to participate in the present study.

If you consent to participation:

  • You will be asked to provide demographic information;
  • You will provide ratings of your current feelings;
  • You will be asked to read a literary text;
  • You will be asked to rate each segment of the text for negative and positive feelings, how much each segment was what you expected, and to identify a phrase that is striking or unexpected in some way and to rate it.

This session should take about 45 minutes to complete.

Participation in this research is completely voluntary. You may discontinue participation at any time and you may decline to answer any of the questions asked while completing the questionnaires or providing commentaries. At any time during or after participation, you may withdraw permission to use any of the information you provide. All the information you provide will be strictly confidential, that is, no persons other than the research team working with David Miall of the English Department will have access to it.

Any report of the information you provide will be in a form that precludes identification of yourself or any persons to whom you may refer during participation. The information you provide will be identified only by a code number and it will remain strictly confidential. After this session, your responses and these consent forms will be separately stored in secure locations in David Miall's laboratory. So, neither the experimenter nor other members of the research group will be able to relate responses to an identifiable research participant. Also, any published or presented reports of this study will discuss only group tendencies, not the results for any specific person.

When you complete the study, you will receive a description of the objectives and rationale for this research.

Your signature below indicates your agreement to participate in this study.

____________________________________ Name (please print)

____________________________________ Signature

____________________________________ Date


2. A debriefing

Oral Debriefing

Thank you for taking part in our research project. Let me remind you once more that you may decide not to let us use the information that you have provided during participation in this study. If so, just let me know and your request will be honored. Or, if you decide later that you would like us not to use your information, just contact me or David Miall of the Department of English, and we will see to it that your responses are destroyed. Do you have any questions about that?

I would now like to tell you more about the research we are doing and about the importance of your participation in this study. But first, I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about your feelings about the study you have participated in.

  • What were your general impressions of the study? Do you have any general questions or concerns?
  • Did you understand the instructions? Were they reasonably clear?
  • Some parts of this study may have been emotionally involving for you. Do you have any questions or concerns about these procedures?
  • Were you comfortable talking about your personal experiences, and how do you feel about that part of the study now?

Let me describe the goals of the study. I will do this in a preliminary way. You will receive a more complete debriefing after the second session. Feel free to interrupt and ask questions at any time during my description. If anything is not clear or needs to be elaborated, just let me know.

By asking you to read the poem and choose three passages for comment we were interested in the extent to which your understanding of the poem might have developed from one passage to the next. Your choice of passages reflects your response, so we will be interested in looking at what ideas and feelings you mention, and whether these occur in more than one commentary. We are also interested in the kinds of language you used in your commentaries, since it is not always easy to comment on a poem written in the style used in this one. In the Questionnaires you completed we provided a set of measures for characterizing your responses to each passage more systematically, so that we will have a way of comparing the responses of all the participants in the study.

We did not tell you before hand what our objectives are. If we had done so, you might have felt pressure or some implicit demand to respond in a particular way, based on what you thought we wanted rather than on your typical or normal response. Therefore we are informing you, in this debriefing, about the nature of our study after you have participated in it. We would ask that you not discuss the study with anyone who might be participating later.

I would also like to remind you that, after this session, no one other than myself or David Miall will have access to the tape-recorded material. A research assistant will transcribe the recorded material and these transcripts and the questionnaire data will be coordinated with a code number and kept separate from the tape recordings. Neither your name nor any other identifying information will be associated with your responses. Also, any published or presented reports of this study will discuss only group tendencies, not the results for any specific person.

Do you have any questions?

If you have any questions or concerns about this particular study, please contact either David Miall or myself, our contact information is included at the bottom of this handout [provide participant with a copy of a debriefing handout]. Thank you very much for your contribution to this project.


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Document prepared February 25th 2007