Informed consent is an essential part of ethical human subjects research.
Informed consent is the process of telling potential research participants about the key elements of a research study and what their participation will involve. Institutional Review Boards and investigators are responsible for ensuring that research participants provide informed consent prior to participating in research unless the requirement for informed consent is waived or altered (in non-exempt research) by the IRB.
Templates and Guidance
The following templates contain the basic elements of informed consent and are recommended for use to streamline IRB review and ensure that regulatory requirements are met. Study-specific information should be added to the templates using complete sentences in non-technical language. Additional consent template language has been reviewed and approved by the IRB Policy Committee. This language can be inserted in the designated sections of consent documents, as applicable.
When adding study-specific information to the templates, use simple lay language and an 8th-grade reading level throughout. Use the Flesch-Kincaid score tool in Word to measure the document's reading level.
- write short, simple, and direct sentences using lay language
- spell out all abbreviations and acronyms
- avoid scientific or technical terms
- use 12-point font or larger based on your audience
- Times New Roman or Arial font is recommended
- line numbers have been added to aid in the review process and must be removed after the consent has been IRB approved
- update the template header:
- IRB Protocol Number – the number assigned by ORRP (e.g., 2023H0156)
- IRB Approval date – the date of IRB approval, which can be found on your approval letter
- Version – personal tracking mechanism; dates (e.g., 11/20/2022) or numbers (e.g., 1.2)
Informed Consent Templates
- Informed Consent Template – Behavioral and Social Science Research (12/20/2021)
- Informed Consent Template – Biomedical and Cancer Research (04/19/2021)
- Combined Consent and HIPAA Authorization Template (04/19/2021)
- Informed Consent Template – Exempt Research (12/20/2021)
Instructions and Guidance
- Informed Consent Guidance – Behavioral and Social Science Research (03/22/2019)
- Informed Consent Guidance – Biomedical and Cancer Research (03/22/2019)
- Combined Consent and Authorization Guidance (02/09/2021)
- Combined Form Submission Instructions (04/25/2017)
- Informed Consent Guidance – Exempt Research (01/15/2019)
Online Research Consent Templates
For minimal risk research being conducted online (such as using an online survey host, conducting interviews via a video messaging platform, document collection via e-mail) consent may be obtained via participants reading a script and then agreeing to participate by clicking a link to a survey, a check box formatted by the survey host, etc. This is an example of a script to be read by participants to collect consent for participation in online research. The example provided either includes or prompts information for the required elements of consent as well as additional language specific to participant confidentiality when collecting data online. A consent script must be submitted for IRB review in conjunction with a request for a waiver of consent documentation.
- Informed Consent Online Template – IRB Research (12/20/2021)
- Informed Consent Online Template – Exempt Research (12/20/2021)
Electronic Signatures for Informed Consent
There are a variety of methods that can be used to obtain and document informed consent that meet the requirements of the university’s electronic signature policy. Some of the methods qualify as a legally valid electronic signature while others would only be applicable to minimal risk research and require a waiver of consent documentation. The Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Office of Responsible Research Practices have partnered to provide guidance to clarify the various approaches available.
Sample Contact Information Card
Contact information card for participants providing verbal consent.
- Sample Contact Information Card (08/29/2023)
Parental Permission Templates
The permission of a parent(s) or guardian must be obtained and documented for children to participate in research unless these requirements are waived by the IRB. In instances where permission of two parents is required, edit the parental permission template to add lines to capture the printed name and signature of the second parent.
For research involving children, the assent of a child to participate in research is required whenever the child is capable of providing assent, based on the age, maturity, condition, and psychological/emotional state of the child. Documentation of assent is generally required, based on the age and literacy level of the child and the nature of the research. If verbal assent will be obtained, the IRB must review a written description of the information (i.e., a script) that will be provided to the child participants during the assent process.
Assent may also be appropriate for adults with decisional impairment and other adults unable to consent for themselves, for whom a legally authorized representative will provide informed consent.
- Assent Template – Behavioral and Social Science Research (12/15/2005)
- Assent Template – Biomedical & Cancer Research (12/15/2005)
Consent Addendum Template
A consent addendum may be used for optional sub-studies presented at the start of subject participation or when new information becomes available during the study. This addendum template must be used in conjunction with the consent template.
Short Form Consent Template for Non-English Speaking Participants
Review the Short Form Informed Consent policy for information about using the short form consent process and forms listed below.
Investigators should carefully consider whether sufficient resources exist to assist with questions the participant may have during the informed consent process or during participation in the research before enrolling a non-English speaking participant using the short form consent process.
These translations are available in part through funding from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Upon demonstrated need, additional short form consent translations may be requested.
Waiver of Informed Consent and Waiver of Consent Documentation
DHHS and FDA regulations permit waivers (or alterations) of the consent process if the research meets certain conditions.
- For more information about waiving or altering the consent process, see HRPP policy Informed Consent Process and the Elements of Informed Consent.
- For more information about waiver of documentation of consent, see HRPP policy Documentation of the Informed Consent Process.
Tips for Written Informed Consent
- Assure that all personnel involved with recruitment and obtaining informed consent have completed training and have been approved by the IRB to participate in the protocol.
- Provide a copy of the complete consent document to each participant.
- Examine the executed document to ensure that all blanks are completed.
- Confirm that the PI/designee signature line has been completed by the person who obtained the participant’s consent.
- Retain signed consent forms in hard copy, electronic, or other media form that complies with sponsor, Federal, and university requirements for at least three years after study termination. Note: Individual sponsors may have longer retention requirements.
- Insert protocol specific information, including the IRB approval date and version, in the consent form header to ensure that the most recent, IRB‐approved version is used to obtain informed consent (e.g., “01/25/23, Version 3,” third version of the consent form approved by the IRB on 01/25/23).
- Correct or update information on the consent form by submitting an amendment for IRB review and approval prior to use (i.e., do not cross through incorrect or outdated information).
- Keep a limited number of consent form copies on hand (or print current version directly before starting the informed consent process) to avoid use of unapproved/outdated consent documents.
- Use only blue or black ink when completing the consent document.
Federal Regulations and Guidance
- General Requirements for Informed Consent: 45 CFR 46.116 (DHHS)
- Documentation of Informed Consent: 45 CFR 46.117 (DHHS)
- Tips on Informed Consent (OHRP)
- FDA Informed Consent Regulations: 21 CFR 50, Subpart B
- IRB Review of Research: 21 CFR 56.109 (FDA)
- FDA Information Sheets: Guide to Informed Consent
- Glossary of Lay Terms for use in Preparing Consent Forms (Stanford University)
- Plain Language Medical Dictionary (University of Michigan Library)