Informed consent




What is informed consent?






Informed consent is an important part of working with language speakers. It is important that speakers know what you will be doing in your recording session and where, how, when, and by whom those recordings will be used.

There are three essential pieces to informed consent:

  • The presentation of all relevant information

  • The speaker’s understanding of the information

  • Freely given consent

An informed consent conversation should happen before recording begins with any speaker. You can record the conversation either by having a speaker sign a consent form, or by recording the discussion and the speaker’s agreement. It may also be helpful to have informed consent in a written form to keep as a record itself, to use as a teaching tool for new team member about how to acquire informed consent, and work with language speakers. However, if a speaker prefers to just provide verbal consent, that is alright too.

Informed consent is part of many aspects of language revitalization and community work. It is aided and supported by strong relationship building and transparency between the language team, community members, and anyone else involved with this work. It may also be interpreted differently in different contexts. For example, informed consent in an archiving and DiGI project might look more like a donor understanding and agreeing to how resources they provide to be digitized might be represented in a collection.

This agreement would still be based in the presentation of all relevant information, the donor's understanding of the information, and freely given consent, but based around providing resources not being recorded themselves.

For more information on this process, please visit this article and module: Archival Acquisition: Adding to Collections 




What information should be given when discussing informed consent?






  • The purpose and objectives of your recordings

  • The important of the recordings

  • How your speaker was identified and selected

  • What is required of the speaker to participate in recording

  • Any risks associated with participating in the recording

  • Any benefits associated with participating in the recording

  • Declaration that the speaker’s participation is voluntary

  • Compensation details

  • Discussion of options for anonymity

  • Opportunity for the speaker to state how they wish to be identified (contributor name and description)

  • Discussion of confidentiality of participation

  • Discussion of if and how data will be disposed or preserved




How can we check that the speaker understands the information?






Your conversation should be open-ended and the speaker should have the opportunity to ask questions. You should address each of the points listed above and ask your speaker if they understand and if they have any questions.

At the conclusion of your discussion, you should ask direct questions that verify your speaker’s consent: ‘Do you consent to participate in recordings for our FirstVoices project?’ ‘Do you consent to be identified by name on FirstVoices.com?'

Additionally, you can show the speaker what information would be present on the FirstVoices site and how the speaker would be represented there. This way informed consent does not seem like just a concept, but the speaker can visualize what he or she is actually agreeing to.




How do you know if consent has been freely given?





Consent that has been freely given is provided without coercion, pressure, or ultimatum. Freely given consent is comfortable because the speaker understands what is being asked of them and knows that they have the choice to say no. Freely given consent includes the option to withdraw consent at any time. This means that a speaker knows that if they are tired or uncomfortable, that they can take a break or end the session completely without consequence.

If the above listed information has been provided, and the speaker has demonstrated that they have understood, and verbal or written consent has been freely given, then the conditions for informed consent have been met.




Documenting consent





FirstVoices has provided a consent template that can be adapted for any project, using either a written or verbal consent protocol. Fill in the relevant information in the below template, and have your speaker sign two copies. One copy should be left with the speaker, and one copy should be retained for your records.