Investigating the complexity of consent forms in ESL research
Keywords:research ethics, meta-research, consent forms
Consent forms tell potential participants what to expect when joining a research project and are considered critical documents to the research process. However, there has been limited investigation into how to properly create a usable consent form for ESL learners. Most of our current knowledge on the topic comes from various governmental mandates, rules of thumb, or from fields outside of linguistics or TESOL research. This paper details an investigation looking into the practices of consent form writing in 40 published ESL-based dissertations. Findings show that the average consent form was around 2.38 pages long and written above the 11th grade level. Additionally, vocabulary from the forms included a large representation of infrequent words that might not be known by ESL participants. Consent forms written for ESL participants appear to be highly complex documents with their difficulty unlikely to provide truly informed consent. A troubling finding since these researchers could be considered experts in understanding ESL learner needs.
Bigelow, M. and Tarone, E. (2004). The role of literacy level in second language acquisition: Doesn’t who we study determine what we know? TESOL Quarterly 38 (4), 689–700. https://doi.org/10.2307/3588285
British Association for Applied Linguistics. (2006). Recommendations on Good Practice in Applied Linguistics, 1–17. Retrieved from http://www.baal.org.uk/dox/goodpractice_full.pdf
Buccini, L. D., Caputi, P., Iverson, D., and Jones, C. (2009). Toward a construct definition of informed consent comprehension. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 4 (1), 17–23. https://doi.org/10.1525/jer.2009.4.1.17
De Costa, P. (Ed.). (2015). Ethics and Applied Linguistics Research. Research Methods in Applied Linguistics: A Practical Resource. New York: Routledge.
De Costa, P. (2014). Making ethical decisions in an ethnographic study. TESOL Quarterly 48 (2), 413–422. https://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.163
Dörnyei, Z. (2007) Research Methods in Applied Linguistics: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methodologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fitzgerald, D., Marotte, C., and Verdier, R. (2002). Comprehension during informed consent in a less-developed country. The Lancet 360, 1301–1303. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(02)11338-9
Flory, J. and Emanuel, E. (2004). Interventions to improve research participants’ understanding in informed consent for research. Journal of the American Medical Association 292 (13), 1593–1601. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.292.13.1593
Fox, J., Artemeva, N., Darville, R., and Woods, D. (2006). Juggling through hoops: Implementing ethics policies in applied language studies. Journal of Academic Ethics 4 (1–4), 77–99.
Gass, S. and Sterling, S. (2017). Ethics in ISLA. In S. Loewen and M. Sato (Eds), The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition, 577–595. New York: Routledge.
Guillemin, M. and Gillam, L. (2004). Ethics, reflexivity, and ‘ethically important moments’ in research. Qualitative Inquiry 10 (2), 261–280. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800403262360
Haggerty, K. D. (2004). Ethics creep: Governing social science research in the name of ethics. Qualitative Sociology 27 (4), 391–414. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:QUAS.
Hobbs, V. and Kubanyiova, M. (2008). The challenges of researching language teachers: What research manuals don’t tell us. Language Teaching Research 12 (4), 495–513. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168808097162
Ioannidis, J. P. A., Fanelli, D., Dunne, D. D., and Goodman, S. N. (2015). Meta-research: Evaluation and improvement of research methods and practices. PLoS Biology 13 (10), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002264
Joffe, S., Cook, E. F., Cleary, P. D., Clark, J. W., and Weeks, J. C. (2001). Quality of informed consent: A new measure of understanding among research subjects. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 93 (2), 139–147. https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/93.2.139
Kincaid, J., Jr, R. F., Rogers, R., and Chissom, B. (1975). Derivation of new readability formulas (automated readability index, fog count and Flesch reading ease formula) for navy enlisted personnel. Naval Technical Training Command Millington TN Research Branch. https://doi.org/10.21236/ADA006655
Kouritzin, S. (Ed.). (2011). Ethics in cross-cultural, cross-linguistic research [Special issue]. TESL Canada Journal 28, i–iv. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v28i0.1077
Lazaraton, A. (2000). Current trends in research methodology and statistics in applied linguistics. TESOL Quarterly 34 (1), 175–181. https://doi.org/10.2307/3588103
Lee, E. (2011). Ethical issues in addressing inequity in/through ESL research. TESL Canada Journal 28 (31), 31–52. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v28i0.1080
Li, Y. (2011). Translating interviews, translating lives : Ethical considerations in cross-language narrative inquiry. TESL Canada Journal 28 (31), 16–30. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v28i0.1079
Loewen, S., Lavolette, E., Spino, L. A., Papi, M., Schmidtke, J., Sterling, S., and Wolff, D. (2014). Statistical literacy among applied linguists and second language acquisition researchers. TESOL Quarterly 48 (2). https://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.128
Mackey, A. and Gass, S. (2015). Second Language Research: Methodology and Design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Mahboob, A., Paltridge, B., Phakiti, A., Wagner, E., Starfield, S., Burns, A., Jones, R., De Costa, P. (2016). TESOL Quarterly Research Guidelines. TESOL Quarterly, 50(1), 42–65. http://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.288
Marshall, P. (2006). Informed consent in international health research. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 1 (1), 25–42. https://doi.org/10.1525/jer.2006.1.1.25
McCabe, M., Morgan, F., Curley, H., Begay, R., and Gohdes, D. D. M. (2005). The informed consent process in a cross-cultural setting: Is the process achieving the intended result. Ethnicity and Disease 15, 300–304.
Miller, C., O’Donnell, D., Searight, R., and Barbarash, R. (1996). The Deaconess Informed Consent Comprehension Test: An assessment tool for clinical research subjects. Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy 16 (5), 872–878.
Newton, K. and Sterling, S. (2017). Medical consent form complexity for nonnative English-speaking patients. Paper presented at American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL). Portland, Oregon, USA.
Ngo, B., Bigelow, M., and Lee, S. J. (2014). Introduction to the special issue: What does it mean to do ethical and engaged research with immigrant communities? Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education 8 (1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1080/15595692.2013.803469
Norris, J. M. and Ortega, L. (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning 50 (3), 417–528. https://doi.org/10.1111/0023-8333.00136
Ortega, L. (2005). For what and for whom is our research? The ethical as transformative lens in instructed SLA. The Modern Language Journal 89 (3), 427–443. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2005.00315.x
Ortega, L. and Zyzik, E. (2008). Online interactions and L2 learning: Some ethical challenges for L2 researchers. In S. Magnan (Ed.), Mediating Discourse Online, 331–357. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/aals.3.19ort
Paasche-Orlow, M. K., Taylor, H. A., and Brancati, F. L. (2003). Readability standards for informed-consent forms as compared with actual readability. The New England Journal of Medicine 348 (8), 721–726. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa021212
Plonsky, L., Egbert, J., and Laflair, G. T. (2015). Bootstrapping in Applied Linguistics: Assessing its potential using shared data. Applied Linguistics 36 (5), 591–610.
Plonsky, L. and Gass, S. (2011). Quantitative research methods, study quality, and outcomes: The case of interaction research. Language Learning 61 (2), 325–366. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2011.00640.x
Plonsky, L. and Ziegler, N. (2016). The CALL – SLA interface : Insights from a second-order synthesis. Language Learning and Technology 20 (2), 17–37.
Polio, C. and Gass, S. (1997). Replication and reporting. Studies in Art Education 19 (4), 499–508.
Porte, G. (2012). Replication Research in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sachs, G. A., Hougham, G. W., Sugarman, J., Agre, P., Marion, E., Geller, G., … Mintz, J. I. M. (2003). Conducting empirical research on informed consent: Challenges and questions. IRB: Ethics and Human Research 25 (5), 4–10. https://doi.org/10.2307/3564116
Schenker, Y., Wang, F., Selig, S. J., Ng, R., and Fernandez, A. (2007). The impact of language barriers on documentation of informed consent at a hospital with on-site interpreter services. Journal of General Internal Medicine 22 (2), 294–299. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-007-0359-1
Schmitt, N., Cobb, T., Horst, M., and Schmitt, D. (2015). How much vocabulary is needed to use English? Replication of van Zeeland and Schmitt (2012), Nation (2006) and Cobb (2007). Language Teaching 50 (2), 212–226. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444815000075
Schmitt, N., Jiang, X., and Grabe, W. (2011). The percentage of words known in a text and reading comprehension. The Modern Language Journal 95 (1), 26–43. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2011.01146.x
Shohamy, E. (2004). Reflections on research guidelines, categories, and responsibility. TESOL Quarterly 38 (4), 728–731. https://doi.org/10.2307/3588291
Steneck, N. (2004). ORI Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2004. Rockville, MD: ORI.
Steneck, N. and Bulger, R. (2007). The history, purpose, and future of instruction in the responsible conduct of research. Academic Medicine 82 (9), 829–834. https://doi.org/10.1097/ACM.0b013e31812f7d4d
Sterling, S. (2015). Informed Consent Forms in ESL Research: Form Difficulty and Comprehension. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University.
Sterling, S. and Gass, S. (2017). Exploring the boundaries of research ethics: Perceptions of ethics and ethical behaviors in applied linguistics research. System 70, 50–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2017.08.010
Sterling, S., Winke, P., and Gass, S. (2016). Training in research ethics among applied linguistics and SLA researchers. In P. I. De Costa (Ed.), Ethics in Applied Linguistics Research: Language Researcher Narratives, 15–37. New York: Routledge.
Stunkel, L., Benson, M., McLellan, L., Sinaii, N., Bedarida, G., Emanuel, E., and Grady, C. (2010). Comprehension and informed consent: Assessing the effect of a short consent form. IRB: Ethics and Human Research 32 (4), 1–9.
Tarone, E. (1980). TESOL research committee report. TESOL Quarterly 14 (3), 383–390. https://doi.org/10.2307/3586605
TESOL Research Committee. (1980). Guidelines for ethical research in ESL. TESOL Quarterly 14 (3), 383–388.
Yeager-Woodhouse, D. and Sivell, J. (2006). Prepackaged tour versus personal journey: The meaning of informed consent in the context of the teacher-study group. Journal of Academic Ethics 4 (1), 189–203.
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.