Producing an informed consent form

Informed consent forms are signed by research project participants to show that they are in agreement with taking part in the research, that they have enough information about the project to make an informed decision and that they agree to the data being used in specified ways. As we have advised before there is an excellent introductory guide that we recommend. We have drawn on this and adapted it to provide the bare bones guidance below.

Their nature of informed consent forms varies according to the nature of the project, but below is a fairly standard format that can be adapted according to need. It is assumed here that you are not interviewing children or vulnerable adults (such as those with learning or communication difficulties). That gets more complicated. There are two forms of consent: direct consent from individuals who are able to give informed consent and assent or proxy consent for those individuals who are unable to give informed consent. This brief guidance here only deals with the former. It also assumes that the research does not involve a level of risk above that of everyday life. Remember, if in doubt, get advice.

It begins with an introduction that states:

• Summary of the project – Title, name of researcher, any other relevant details
• Statement of confirmation
• Name of participant, signature and date

You need to make the instructions totally clear. It is recommended that you use tick boxes and keep it all in the first person. For example:

I have read and understand the purpose of the study 
I have been given the chance to ask questions about the study and these have been answered to my satisfaction 
I am willing to be interviewed 
I am willing for my comments to be recorded 
I understand that I can withdraw at any time if I change my mind 
I am aware that my name and details will be kept confidential and will not appear in any printed documents 

If you intend to name respondents in any report (which obviously can happen depending on the nature and purpose of the research) then you leave out the last statement. Remember that the statements above are indicative, not comprehensive. An additional statement can be put in that provides contact details if they wish to complain about or raise any issues about the conduct of the research. This should not be you.

Then we need a space for you and the participant to sign and date it.

All data collected must be rendered anonymous, unless the participants have waived anonymity. 

Some organisations have very specific formats for such forms, so you must ensure that any such procedure is adhered to.

A basic statement of confirmation can look like this:

This information will be held and processed for the following purpose(s):
_________________________________________________(Project title)

I agree to the University of Dundee recording and processing this information about me. I understand that this information will be used only for the purpose(s) set out in the information sheet supplied to me, and my consent is conditional upon the university complying with its duties and obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Signature________________________ Date ___________

Obviously keep all copies of these signed forms secure.


Josephine Rydberg-Dumont visits the studio


Josephine Rydberg-Dumont is without doubt one of the most influential design managers in the world. Between 2000 and 2007 she was CEO of IKEA, and was responsible for lifting the sales of this Swedish retail giant from 7 to 20 billion Euros. In 2005, Forbes placed her as the 30th most powerful woman in the world. And this afternoon she spent an hour with our Master of Design for Services and MSc Design Ethnography students, in an informal Q&A about the lecture all our students had attended the previous evening.



For much of the session, Josephine described and drew out insights on customer research and design development at IKEA. She also discussed some of the dilemmas and issues of being a global corporation seeking to act responsibly in the world. She also identified some of the issues of creative leadership for the “design doers” of tomorrow. In all an inspiring afternoon.



Photos courtesy of Jiaru Shi

Mendeley: the of research


As we discussed in today’s session, Mendeley is a useful tool for researchers. the video above explains how it can be seen as a of research. This in part is because it is backed by co-founders of and skype. The Mendeley site provides a great deal of support to explain how to make use of it.

However, there are issues about the Terms of Use and Conditions (you know, all that legal stuff that nobody ever reads) that we really do need to be familiar with. The video below explains this.


John Cleese on creativity, work and writing

As Open Culture explains:

Though he became known for the physical comedy of characters like the irate owner of a dead parrot, a minister of silly walks, and the always buffoonish Basil Fawlty, John Cleese is actually a very deep thinker. This will probably come as no surprise to fans of Monty Python’s intellectual humor, but it’s still a treat to see him, out of character, getting serious about ideas, even if he can’t resist the odd joke or ten. His subject? Creativity. His forum? Well, in the video above, we see Cleese at the 2009 World Creativity Forum in Germany.

A small extract from this talk will be used in my session on Tuesday morning. It will be preceded by this example of his work.

Ethics and design research

It was excellent to welcome Jackie Malcolm to the Masters studio today to discuss ethics in research and design practice and to emphasise its central role. Within the University of Dundee we have a robust and rigorous process to ensure that ethical approval is gained prior to a project and that informed consent is gained. For us in design, this is most appropriately expressed through a code of practice for non-clinincal research ethics on human participants.

However, as a highly readable overview of ethics in research that includes useful practical advice, I would suggest referring to the research ethics and governance handbook produced by Northumbria University and available online. A clear explanation of informed consent on page 3 is followed by ‘informed consent and ethnography’ on the following page. Appendix 1 provides very useful guidance on producing an informed consent form

Understanding empathy

This Wednesday, Hazel will be focussing one of her sessions on empathy. She will make use of this You Tube film in which philosopher and author Roman Krznaric explains how we can help drive social change by stepping outside ourselves through empathy.

It may be useful for some students to watch this in advance, to ensure that you understand it, as it will be the focus for some discussion in her session.