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Review Ethics & Confidentiality

When conducting research or an evaluation, always be a good steward of the data you collect. When conducting research or evaluation, do not:

  • Harm the population you are studying by misrepresenting or misusing data
  • Breach participant confidentiality
  • Broach sensitive topics without adequate support (AEA, 1995).

You can avoid these problems by ensuring participants fully understand the study and what their participation will entail before the study begins. Getting participants to read and sign an informed consent form is a great way to protect the rights of participants, as well as researchers. An informed consent from should explain:

  • The purpose of the study
  • The type(s) of data that will be collected
  • The procedures you will use to collect data
  • How data will be reported
  • If and how confidentiality and anonymity will be provided to participants.

The informed consent agreement should also explicitly explain that participation is voluntary, and participants can opt out at any time. It is important that you ensure participants not only read and sign, but also understand the informed consent form prior to engaging in the study. Always respect the rights of your participants and honor the details laid out in the informed consent agreement.

Multiple examples of consent forms are available online, the Free Management Library provides a general example in their Basic Guide to Program Evaluation.

*Note – When evaluating programs that serve minors it is absolutely essential that you have signed consent from the minors’ parents/guardians before including them in your study.

*Note – If your evaluation study involves questioning participants about sensitive or emotionally troubling topics, it is important that participants are debriefed at the end of the study. A debriefing should allow participants to discuss the feelings that emerged about the topic and/or provide participants with external support, such as counseling or advising, to help them process those feelings.