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Institutional Review Board (IRB): Information Letters

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CITI Program

When can I use an information letter?

You can use an information letter when all of the following are true:

  1. You plan to conduct human subjects research with K-12 students
  2. You will be recruiting K-12 students that you work with daily (teachers, school counselors, principals, etc.)
  3. You will be doing research within the students' everyday educational setting
  4. You have approval from your school and/or district
  5. AND All of the students will have an equal opportunity to participate or get the ‘treatment’ (like a new curriculum in a classroom)

If this does not apply to you, please go to consent letters for participants 18+ or child assent letters for participants 17 and under.

For further assistance, please listen to the audio description and view the graphic below.

description below image

Image Description. In educational settings, information letters are used when research part of the "normal" everyday activities that happen in a school. An Information letter contains most of the elements of consent. It has an "opt out" clause where parents will contact you about the research if they do not want you to use their child's/student's data. All students will receive "the treatment" even though you will only use some of the data.

Consent letters are used in research that is not part of the "normal" educational setting. For minors, you get both consent for parents and assent for children/students.

Introduction to Information Letters

Information letters contain the elements of a consent letter, but can be used, in place of consent or assent, for researchers who are studying normal, everyday activities for K-12 students they already interact with. This would include teachers who are researching the effect of normal, everyday curriculum or lesson plans with their own students. If the research activity is being implemented for all of the students, as part of their everyday routine, the researcher can distribute an information letter to the K-12 students' parents that informs them of the research and gives them the option to opt out their K-12 student's data from being used in the study. The "treatment," however, would still happen in the school. The researcher would not distribute recruitment materials or obtain consent/assent in this case. description below image

Image Description. If you are doing a study where all students are in a K-12 setting and you have support from the school district, you will use an information letter instead of consent for parents and assent for children/students. Make sure of the following:

  1. The site permission letter from the school district supports the activities you are proposing
  2. All students receive the opportunity
  3. Information letters are not signed. They are "opt out" letters for parents to learn about your study.

Writing an Information Letter

You are required to use the NCU IRB information letter template below, unless you are working with an IRB that requires you to use their template instead.

You will also be required to provide a Readability Report for your information letter.

Do I need to reword the template to avoid plagiarism?

No! Using a required template is not plagiarism. The information letter template has language that is required by federal regulations. You should not change or revise any of the template language.

Submitting Your Information Letter

You will upload your information letter in the "Consent" section of your IRB application.

The documents you upload to your IRB application should be ready to send to the participants. Double-check the following:

  • Don't change or reword any of the required template language
  • Remove all blue highlighting, template instructions, and optional sections that aren't applicable to your study
  • Remove any Track Changes or comments from your chair or the IRB
  • Don't include any labeling or formatting from your dissertation (Appendix, etc.)