Planning the Debriefing Process

The debriefing process should augment the debriefing form. It should not reiterate what is on the debriefing hand out. Researchers should not merely read the debriefing form to participants. The oral debriefing should not be a script. Rather, oral debriefing is intended to be an opportunity for a conversation between researcher and participant.

Researchers/PIs should train RAs and give them a chance to practice in the lab so that they can: (1) effectively summarize the key points on the oral debriefing summary; (2) answer questions about the study effectively.

Single subject studies and small group administration where participants finish roughly at once:

Plan a 3 minute explanation and allow for 2 minutes of questions.

What to put in IRB protocol:
"Subjects will be debriefed as a group (or individually if running single-subjects) when they all have finished the study. Materials will be collected (or whatever is appropriate for your particular study) and then the researcher will explain the following points:
(1) write first point here
(2) write second point here
(3) write third point here
The debriefing form will then be distributed and participants will then be invited to ask questions. After questions are answered, we will point out our email address on the debriefing form in case they have additional questions about the study. They will then be thanked and told the study has concluded."

Group administration where individuals finish at their own pace:

As above, but do the debriefing outside of the room (preferably in an adjacent room so that it is private), one by one, or in small groups if students finish at the same time. Do not hold all participants "prisoner" until everyone is finished. Tell students that they need to check in with you, where you will take attendance before they leave. This will ensure that each student will come to see you. Larger groups may require that more than one research assistant help with the debriefing process.

Sample IRB protocol would look like:
"Subjects will be debriefed individually as they complete the questionnaire packet. They will be instructed to bring their questionnaire to the researcher and sign in, in the adjacent lab room #555. At that time, the researcher will cover these main points in the oral debriefing:
(1) write first point here
(2) write second point here
(3) write third point here
Participants will then be invited to ask questions. After questions are answered, the researcher will give them a written debriefing form and point out the lab coordinator's email address in case they have additional questions about the study. They will then be thanked and told the study has concluded."

Note: Oral debriefing may be impractical for very large group administration (e.g. 50). In this case, you may elect to use a Q&A format instead of the oral debriefing process described here, or to hand out a written debriefing (as in a web study), allow subjects time to read it, and then ask questions.

Online-only study:

The last webpage the participants see needs to be a detailed debriefing. This needs to be written in a manner that first-term freshman can understand. You MUST include your contact information (email and phone) so that they can easily get questions answered. This webpage needs to be easy to save or print so that subjects can keep a copy of it.

Sample IRB protocol would look like:
"Upon completion of the study, subjects will be taken to a debriefing webpage. This webpage will be easy to save or print so that the participants can retain the debriefing for their records. (then, attach a copy of the webpage's text)



Written Debriefing Form Checklist

What you may also choose to include:

Click here for an example debriefing;

Click here to submit a debriefing.