The Appropriateness of Language Found in Research Consent Form Templates: A Computational Linguistic AnalysisReportar como inadecuado

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To facilitate informed consent, consent forms should use language below the grade eight level. Research Ethics Boards REBs provide consent form templates to facilitate this goal. Templates with inappropriate language could promote consent forms that participants find difficult to understand. However, a linguistic analysis of templates is lacking.


We reviewed the websites of 124 REBs for their templates. These included English language medical school REBs in Australia-New Zealand n = 23, Canada n = 14, South Africa n = 8, the United Kingdom n = 34, and a geographically-stratified sample from the United States n = 45. Template language was analyzed using Coh-Metrix linguistic software v.3.0, Memphis, USA. We evaluated the proportion of REBs with five key linguistic outcomes at or below grade eight. Additionally, we compared quantitative readability to the REBs’ own readability standards. To determine if the template’s country of origin or the presence of a local REB readability standard influenced the linguistic variables, we used a MANOVA model.


Of the REBs who provided templates, 0-94 0%, 95% CI = 0–3.9% provided templates with all linguistic variables at or below the grade eight level. Relaxing the standard to a grade 12 level did not increase this proportion. Further, only 2-22 9.1%, 95% CI = 2.5–27.8 REBs met their own readability standard. The country of origin DF = 20, 177.5, F = 1.97, p = 0.01, but not the presence of an REB-specific standard DF = 5, 84, F = 0.73, p = 0.60, influenced the linguistic variables.


Inappropriate language in templates is an international problem. Templates use words that are long, abstract, and unfamiliar. This could undermine the validity of participant informed consent. REBs should set a policy of screening templates with linguistic software.

Autor: Alexander Villafranca , Stephanie Kereliuk, Colin Hamlin, Andrea Johnson, Eric Jacobsohn



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