Skip to Main Content

Institutional Review Board (IRB): Consent

Contact the IRB

email icon Email us at    

 Visit the IRB Office Hours page

When do I need a consent material?

You are required to write consent material/s for your NU IRB application if all of the following are true:

  1. You plan to conduct human subjects research
  2. You will be recruiting participants who are age 18 or older
  3. You are not researching a normal educational setting

If your research involves minors (17 years of age or younger), see the information regarding Parental Permission and Minor Assent. If your research involves normal education activities in everyday educational settings (adults or minors), see the information regarding Information Letters.

Introduction to Consent

Using one of the Consent material templates, you will write a consent material so that potential participants have all the information about your study in one place and can make an informed decision as to whether they want to participate in your study. Consent material is just one part of the informed consent process. Informed consent is an ongoing process that begins during recruitment and continues throughout the study.

How to gain Consent from potential participants

If you are engaging with adult participants in real-time (interviews, focus groups, observations, etc.) as your first or only activity, you will send potential participants a copy of the Consent Form before you meet with them. You then must do the following:

  1. Set aside time to review the consent form with each participant. As you review the consent form, remind participants that they do not have to participate if they do not want to, they can skip any question they do not want to answer, they can skip any activity they do not want to participate in, and they can stop participating at any time.
  2. Give participants an opportunity to ask questions about your study.
  3. Ask participants for verbal consent (e.g., "Do you still want to participate in this study?"). For Exempt and Expedited studies, the NU IRB does not require you to collect participant signatures or any written documentation of consent (if you are using a site IRB, they may require participant signatures).

The suggested verbal consent process

Email the consent form before the interview/focus group/observation with enough time for the participant to review it, and ask these questions at the beginning of the first data collection activity:

  1. Did you receive the consent form I emailed?
  2. Did you have time to review the consent form?
  3. Do you have any questions about the research or the consent form?
  4. Do you consent to participate in this research?

You need a 'yes' to questions 1, 2, & 4.

Adding the Online Consent to my survey/questionnaire

If you are distributing an Online Survey or Questionnaire, as your first or only activity, you will do the following:

You will paste your Online Consent into your survey/questionnaire as the first page. Please use the following steps (in Qualtrics). 

  1. Open your survey/questionnaire for editing.
  2. Click on "Add Block" text below any block. 
  3. Drag and drop the block so that it is the first block. This will place it above the default question block. 
  4. Rename the block to Consent
  5. Deselect the checkmark to the left of the question number. You do not need to have a question number on the consent. 
  6. Click on the Add new question button.
  7. Click Text/Graphic from the list of question types.
  8. Copy and paste your consent into the text box.
  9. Review the headers to ensure they are bold, and follow them with a space. This will help your headings stand out by adding some space around them. 
  10. Ensure that your entire consent was pasted into the text box and that is readable. You should paste the consent without the MS Word formatting as the hidden characters in MS Word can interfere with proper display and screen reader functionality. 
  11. Add the following text to the bottom of the consent: "By clicking the next button and completing the survey you indicate that you have consented to participate in this research. If you do not want to participate, please close the browser."
  12. Save your work. 
  13. Preview your survey/questionnaire and revise as needed. 

When do I collect consent?

Only after you have received IRB approval can you consent participants. You cannot consent participants or collect data until you have IRB approval.

Consent is only collected once, before the first research activity.

Writing Consent

You are required to use the NU IRB consent template, unless you are working with an IRB/ HRPP that is requiring you to use their template.

Do I need to reword the template to avoid plagiarism?

No! Using a required template is not plagiarism. The consent template has language that is required by federal regulations. You should not change or revise any of the template language.

How do I write my consent if I have multiple participant groups?

If you have multiple participant groups, you will use a separate consent for each group.

Receive feedback on your consent

The NU IRB recommends that you receive feedback on your consent before you submit your IRB application:

Submitting Your Consent material

The consent material you upload to your IRB application should be ready to send to the participants. Double-check the following:

  • Don't change or reword any of the required template language
  • Remove all blue highlighting, template instructions, and optional sections that aren't applicable to your study
  • Remove any Track Changes or comments from your chair or the IRB
  • Do not include any labeling or formatting from your dissertation (Appendix, etc.)