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Recruitment provides basic information about the study in order to attract interest in participation. It is considered part of the consent process and needs IRB approval.

There are multiple ways to initiate the first contact with potential subjects. Researchers may secure lists of people who have indicated interest in taking part in studies. Social media or physical flyers may be used, or if appropriate, potential participants may be approached in person. Online services such as Amazon Mechanical Turk are available. Various groups can provide contact information for their members who have indicated that they may be contacted about available research studies.

Recruitment usually provides some elements of consent. How much information provided depends on the potential population, study topic, and any relevant cultural factors. We encourage that recruitment materials include the Campus IRB protocol number (e.g., Protocol ID#: 2020-0100) where appropriate.

Recruitment may be a few sentences that briefly explain the study topic, study activities, and identifies the researchers and funders. See a sample flyer.

Recruitment Including All the Elements of Consent

Recruitment may include all the elements of consent if researchers know that potential participants have many demands on their time and would not be amenable to a two-step process (recruitment followed by full consent), but would prefer knowing all study information before considering participation. For example, a researcher may send an email message to potential participants with all the elements of consent and ask participants to respond if they are interested in setting a time for a phone interview.

Recruitment may also include all of the elements if the topic is sensitive and the population vulnerable. The recruitment would be followed by a review and more in-depth discussion about the study, its risks and benefits.

If appropriate, include the Campus IRB protocol number on recruitment materials.

Transitioning from Recruitment to Consent

Consent is a social interaction. If, in response to a recruitment email message from you, a potential participant has agreed to meet you for an interview and already knows who you are, an appropriate introduction to the consent process would be:

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. I would like to go over the information I have already given you, provide more detail, and answer any questions you may have. As you know….”

If a potential participant has called a general lab number to set up an appointment, when they arrive at the lab, a more formal introduction to the research team would be appropriate.

Limits on Who May Recruit Participants

Because recruitment is part of the consent process, anyone who actively recruits is considered engaged in the research. Anyone engaged in research must have IRB approval by the institution with which they are affiliated. 

Others may:

  1. inform prospective subjects about the availability of the research;
  2. provide prospective subjects with information about the research (which may include a copy of the relevant informed consent document and other IRB approved materials) but do not obtain subjects’ consent for the research or act as representatives of the investigators;
  3. provide prospective subjects with information about contacting investigators for information or enrollment; and/or
  4. seek or obtain the prospective subjects’ permission for investigators to contact them.


Campus IRB Guides