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.
The consent form template below will be suitable for many studies but may need alterations to be commensurate with your study and must be used in conjunction with the guidance given in Information Sheets & Consent Forms.
Oral consent should be considered when obtaining explicit, active consent is essential, but the risk or discomfort involved in the process is too great to make written consent a valid option. Some populations, such as criminals, undocumented immigrants, or the homeless, may be placed at legal risk, or be suspicious of leaving a written trace, and refuse to participate. Or, the topic of the research may be highly sensitive, because it concerns behavior and attitudes that, even though legal, are socially condemned. Should the records be exposed, or a criminal investigation take place, researchers themselves may become liable. Oral consent is also a valid option for participants that are uncomfortable reading and writing, and may be too embarrassed by the written consent process to participate in research. In that case, the researcher should record the reading of a consent statement, and the clear answers of the participants indicating willingness to participate. The recording verifies informed oral consent.
Explicit consent. Participants give consent by answering a specific question about their willingness to participate. This may be done in written (consent form) or oral form.