Human Research Ethics

Cover Letters and Introductory Statements

The Research Ethics Board has provided a set of guidelines for preparing a cover letter/introductory statement. Sample cover letters are also included.


Well-written cover letters/introductory statements are a key ingredient in determining the response rate to participation in a research project. If the research involves personal or telephone interviews, then the cover letter is more often referred to as the introductory statement. Devising a successful cover letter/introductory statement is a public relations task. The purpose of the research project should be communicated to potential respondents in such a way as to gain their confidence in the merits of the project and their enthusiasm for taking the time to participate.

 Cover letters/introductory statements provide the format for insuring that ethical considerations are adequately presented to potential participants. The following guidelines can be of help.

  1. Use letterhead on cover letters.
  2. Title of study.
  3. Identify persons and/or organizations that are conducting the research and how researchers can be reached.
  4. Clearly stated purpose that can easily be understood by the target population (a "test run" with lay people is recommended).
  5. Brief description, in lay terms, of the research, including an explanation of what the participant is required to do or be subjected to.
  6. Explanation of benefits or lack thereof; how involvement in the research may affect the participant, including any side effects.
  7. Explain how confidentiality of participants is assured.
  8. Assure respondents that all answers are accepted.
  9. Indicate length of time required for participation.
  10. Stress the volunteer nature of participation and the right to withdraw at any time.
  11. Indicate how the data is to be used and how participants may access a copy of the final results.
  12. Indicate storage of data for seven years in the letter of introduction and/or consent form. Data will be securely stored at Lakehead University.


Consent Forms

 The Research Ethics Board has provided a set of guidelines for preparing consent forms.


Consent forms should include the following:

  1. A statement that indicates that the participant understands the conditions for his/her involvement as stated in the cover letter/introductory statement. (Title of study, purpose of the study in lay terms, name of principal investigators and how they can be reached, benefits or lack thereof in participation, confidentiality.)
  2. A statement that reconfirms the voluntary nature of the participation and the ability to withdraw at any time regardless of the reason.
  3. Risk Factor (what the person will have to do or be subjected to, and any possible side effects.)
  4. Place for name and signature of the participant, dated.
  5. For research that is deemed to involve an invasive technique, there should be a place also on the consent form for witness name and signature, dated, as well as name and signature date of the person who explained the study to the participant.

For more information on the Ethical Procedures and Guidelines for Research on Human Subjects please contact Dr. Tamara Varney at ext. 343-8010 ext. 8402 or by e-mail at: Tamara Varney

Department of Anthropology Research Ethics Form click here