Getting informed consent for user research

You must have informed consent from participants before you start any research activity with them. And you must then act only within the consent the participant has given.

This guidance explains how we collect and keep evidence of informed consent at dxw. It builds on the general guidance on getting informed consent in the Service Manual.

There are two basic options:

  1. The simplest and best option is to use our client’s existing consent materials. If they don’t have any, we can work with the client to create consent materials for the project, that the client can then reuse in future.

    In this case the client will manage all the research data we collect and keep the associated records of consent.

  2. If using the client’s consent materials is not possible, or if the client asks us to do confidential research, we can use the dxw information sheet and consent form templates.

    In this case dxw will manage the research data and keep the associated records of consent.

Which ever approach you take, make sure your consent materials and process follow the good practice for informed consent described in the Service Manual.

Creating an information sheet #

For each round or batch of research you do, you should create a specific information sheet that describes the research you are doing, and gives the participant the information they need.

You can use the same information sheet for several rounds or batches of research, as long as you are:

  • doing the research for the same purpose
  • doing the same things during the sessions
  • collecting the same research data
  • working with the same third-party organisations and suppliers

We have template information sheets to use for the most common research situations.

If you are using a client’s consent form, make sure it clearly describes dxw’s involvement in the research, and how we will share research data and findings.

We have template consent forms for the most common research situations.

If none of the standard consent forms will work for the research activities you are doing, speak to the Head of User Research.

Some clients and stakeholders will not understand the ethical and legal reasons for getting informed consent, and will not be familiar with good consent practice.

To avoid problems later, share your consent materials and process as soon as you can with the client and with any organisations whose staff or members you are researching with.

Providing the information sheet #

Give each participant a copy of the information sheet when they are being recruited for a research session. Check which format and channel works best for them - email attachment, paper letter, easy read, etc.

For a face to face research session, make sure you can provide a paper copy of both the information sheet and the associated privacy statement/privacy policy, if a participant asks for one.

Face to face research sessions #

For user research sessions where you meet the participant in person, you can:

  • give the participant a printed copy of the consent form
  • send the consent form in an accessible digital format the participant can read using their assistive technology
  • read the consent form aloud

Check with the participant which format works best for them.

Give the participant the consent form as soon as you can. Make sure they have time to read it carefully, and an opportunity to ask questions, before you ask the participant to sign .

Remote or telephone research sessions #

For user research sessions where you will not meet the participant face to face, you can:

  • attach the consent form to an email in an accessible digital format
  • send a paper consent form in the post

Ask the participant to send a reply, confirming their consent. They can reply to the email, or post back a signed paper consent form.

During the session #

At the start of the session, remind the participant that their participation is voluntary and they can stop or take a break at any time. Remind the participant about the different ways you are recording the session, and about anyone observing or listening in. Ask the participant to confirm their consent for the recording.

As the session continues, actively make sure you have the participant’s consent. For example, check in with the participant if they look concerned about an activity, or if you’re on a visit and want to take a photo in a new area.

For paper consent forms, scan or photograph the signed consent form and keep the image file in the folder with the research data you collect in the session.

For email responses, keep a copy of the consent form and of the participant’s reply in the folder with the research data you collect in the session.

Make sure the consent form, email reply and any research data have the same participant identifier. Do not include participant names or other personal identifiers in the document names.