How to seek consent

Whether informed consent is obtained in writing through a detailed consent form, by means of signing an informative statement, or verbally, depends on the nature of the research, the kind of data gathered, the data format and how the data will be used.

 Written  More solid legal ground, e.g. participant agrees to disclose personal information.

Often required by Ethics Committees.

Offers more protection for researcher.

Not possible for some cases: Illiteracy, infirm participants, participants wary of formal documentation (illegal activities, refugees) informal research setting.

 Verbal Can be difficult to make all issues clear verbally.

Possibly greater risks for researcher.

Best if recorded (audio or video).

Written consent should be gained wherever possible to ensure that information is being collected and provided in a consistent and uniform way. It may also serve to protect both researchers and participants should any form of dispute arise.

Some guidelines and certain Research Ethics Committees, Research Governance boards, or other bodies, make statements indicating (or strongly implying) that written consent is required or mandatory. This is not the case in the UK.

While we advocate the use of written forms, there are cases where it is not appropriate and flexibility in evaluating projects on their individual merits is essential.