Doing Audience Research
It is very important that people are aware that you respect their confidentiality and that, where possible, rigorous steps will be taken to preserve anonymity.
The doctrine of valid consent operates here. That is, participants should enter into the research freely and willingly and know and understand what they are agreeing to when they take part. They should be told they have the right to withdraw from the research at any time. Wherever possible, anonymity and confidentiality should be maintained.
Issues to Consider when Providing Information to Potential Participants
You should take time over the information that will be given to participants as it is essential to explain what you are asking people to do and the possible implications so that they can make a proper decision for themselves whether they wish to take part.
You must clearly explain the following matters in terms that an ordinary person, rather than a specialist in your field, can understand:
- that you are inviting them to take part in a research project
- who you are – a student/your post in the University and, where relevant, your experience in conducting research of this kind
- the nature, risks (if any), benefits (if any), duration and purpose of the research project. This must include clear information about what the participant will be asked to do, where the research will be carried out, any risks to the participant’s health and safety and the steps that will be taken to minimise those risks
- that participation in the project is entirely voluntary
- if the project is funded (and if so, by whom)
- if the research project is part of a student’s coursework
- what the information gathered is intended to be used for, including whether it is intended to publish the results
- the arrangements concerning confidentiality of, and access to, information about the research participant
- what, if any, arrangements are in place for compensation in the event of something going wrong
- how the research participant can obtain further information about the project (such as by the provision of work contact numbers/email for the researcher; home contact numbers should not be given nor should university office numbers be given where the researcher is a student.)
- who the research participant can contact if they are concerned about any aspect of how the research was conducted. This would normally be the Convenor/Chair of the School Research Ethics Committee.
If participation in a research project is likely to be of no direct benefit to the participants, you should explain this in the information sheet.
Confidentiality of information obtained during research
You must familiarise yourself and comply with current legal requirements for storage of and access to data about research participants. You must consider the method of keeping personal data about research participants and how to anonymise information about them, where appropriate.
What happens if I want to publish the research?
There are ethical issues involved in respect of publishing research.
You must tell the proposed research participant in advance if you have any intention of publishing the results of the project. You must also explain the extent to which, if at all, any identifying information about the research participant will appear in the publication.
If identifying information about the research participant is intended to be published, you must obtain and keep specific written agreement to this from the research participant.
Preferably these issues should be addressed in the consent form that are given out before the research starts. This will prevent any disappointment if the individual, when asked later, chooses not to agree and therefore reduces the value of the information that can be published.
In most cases you will not be the only person with an interest in publishing the results. Research is a collaborative activity and, in the case of student work, supervisors may expect to claim some contribution.
Informing Research Participants of the Results of Research
You are encouraged to consider the issue of informing research participants of the results of the research or where they may be able to get access to this information, although research participants may not be able to be given their individual results. Taking part in non-clinical research is a voluntary matter requiring good-will on the part of the community and it is appropriate for research participants to be able to receive feedback on research they have been involved in where this is possible.