Some participants, although not legally competent, are able to make judgment about their participation themselves. This is the case for teenagers and some mentally impaired individuals, for instance. The assent formgives them an opportunity to express their agreement to participate in research in writing, beyond the consent given by a legal guardian or parent. Although the assent is not legally binding, and does not dispense a researcher from obtaining consent from a parent or legal guardian, it is advisable as sound ethical practice. It reinforces the voluntary nature of participation.
To guarantee that participants understand what they are consenting to, researchers should pay attention to the language they use. They should use the language that their target population will be most comfortable with. As a rule, they should refrain from using technical language and use an 8thgrade level of English. Depending on the methodology you are using, the population and topic you are studying, and the level of risk, informed consent may be implied or explicit, active or passive, and written or oral.
Written consent. Participants give their consent by filling out a consent form. Written consent guarantees active and explicit consent, thus offering the highest guarantees to the participant. It is most appropriate in studies that contain some level of risk, but also in many studies with no risk above those of daily life, when participants disclose personal or sensitive information, when they are exposed to deception, or any experimental treatment. Experiments and in-depth interviews in particular should consider written consent.
Implied consent. Participation in the study is proof of consent. This is acceptable for studies that provide anonymity, such as opinion surveys. A statement at the top of the instrument should clearly state that by filling it, the participant consents to participate, but does not wave any of their rights as research participant. Projects using implied consent should use the consent statementtemplate provided in this website, or a similar document, in their proposal. It provides active implied consent.