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Biggs, J. S., & Marchesi, A. (2015). Information for consent: Too long and too hard to read. Research Ethics, 11(3), 133–141. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016115583381


The length of participant information sheets (ISs) for research and difficulties in their comprehension have been a cause of increasing concern. We aimed to examine the information sheets in research proposals submitted to an Australian HREC in one year, comparing the results with national recommendations and published data. Information sheets in all 86 research submissions were analysed using available software. The work of Flesch was used for Reading Ease or Readability and that of Flesch and Kincaid for the level of education required for comprehension, the Reading Grade Level. The mean length of 86 information sheets was 3110 words; many had more than 5000 words. Using the Flesch scale of 0 to 100, with 0 meaning most difficult and 100 very easy to read, the mean readability level was 47. The mean length of education needed to easily grasp the information was 11.6 years, equivalent to senior secondary school. Information sheets in research projects submitted to an HREC were often too long to be read in a reasonable time and too difficult to be easily understood. Recommended standards for information sheets were infrequently met.