From time to time, the nature of a research project may necessitate some use of deception, in which the researcher does not tell the potential participant the true nature or the full nature of the purpose or procedures being implemented in the course of the research. While this is sometimes an integral part of the scientific endeavor, the HRRC is committed to the principles of informed consent, and offer the following guidelines when the use of deception is necessary.

Filling out survey


  1. When deception is a necessary and integral part of a study design, preliminary consent must still be obtained whereby the researcher informs the participant about the research generally, even if the full nature of the research is not articulated.
  2. At the conclusion of the research interventions, debriefing should be conducted to ensure that participants understand both the deception that occurred, and why it was necessary for the study design. Debriefing may be done after each individual participant or after the entire group of participants have completed the research, depending on the design of the study.
  3. Projects that involve deception should include a process whereby the researcher explains the nature of and need for the deception to the participants and then seeks their post-facto approval of the deception. The participant’s acceptance or refusal of the explanation provided should be recorded in the researcher’s notes, but does not require a signature of the participant.
  1. During this post-facto approval of deception, if an individual participant refuses to accept the explanation provided and requests that any information collected from or about him or her be destroyed, the researcher should comply with this request to the extent feasible.
  2. If a preponderance of participants do not accept the explanation offered of the need for deception, even if they are willing to continue to participate in the research, a report of an unexpected problem in the research should be reported to the HRRC. Any other unexpected problems that arise from the use of deception also should be reported to the HRRC.

Page last modified July 21, 2016