Recruitment/Advertising Guidelines

The Texas A&M University Institutional Review Board (IRB) views the recruitment process and advertisements as a precursor of the consent process and subject selection process. The IRB reviews recruitment materials to ensure that the information presented is not unduly coercive. This is especially critical when a study involves subjects who are likely to be vulnerable to undue influence. Therefore, any material aimed at recruiting potential subjects for a project must be reviewed and approved by the IRB prior to being used.

Recruitment materials may take many forms, such as flyers, posters, newspaper advertisements, verbal statements, and emails or letters to potential subjects. Recruitment materials must not contain coercive language. The information provided should be an accurate presentation of the research study purpose and/or procedures.

Suggested guidelines for an advertisement or recruitment letter include:

  • Do NOT state or imply a certainty of favorable outcome or other benefits beyond what is outlined in the consent document and the protocol
  • Do NOT promise “free treatment,” when the intent is only to say subjects will not be charged for taking part in the research
  • Do NOT include exculpatory language (see our FAQs for examples of exculpatory language)
  • Do NOT emphasize the payment or the amount to be paid, by such means as larger or bold type
  • The advertisement is limited to the information prospective subjects need to determine their eligibility and interest, such as:
o    The name and contact information of the investigator or research facility
o    The condition under study or the purpose of the research
o    In summary form, the criteria that will be used to determine eligibility for the study
o    A brief list of participation benefits, if any
o    The time or other commitment required of the subjects
o    The location of the research and the person or office to contact for further information

For FDA Research:

  • Do NOT make claims, either explicitly or implicitly, that the drug, biologic or device is safe or effective for the purposes under investigation
  • Do NOT make claims, either explicitly or implicitly, that the test article is known to be equivalent or superior to any other drug, biologic or device
  • Do NOT use terms, such as “new treatment,” “new medication” or “new drug” without explaining that the test article is investigational.
  • Do NOT include a coupon good for a discount on the purchase price of the product once it has been approved for marketing.

When a prospective participant contacts the researcher for additional information, a script of the information that will be shared should be included with the recruitment materials. Often this script will include questions that determine eligibility. In the information given to the IRB for review, it is important to include how responses to these questions will determine an individual’s eligibility (e.g., a “yes” answer to any question will disqualify the individual).

Other studies involve recruitment through written communication (e.g., mailed surveys). A copy of all contact information (e.g., pre-contact letter, reminder postcards or letters) is required with the IRB application, as well as a description of the intervals this information will be sent to prospective participants.

Sample Advertisement Acceptable to the IRB
VITAMIN G STUDY: You are invited to participate in a study evaluating the effects of vitamin G, conducted by Dr. Cando at Texas A&M University, Department of Nutrition. The study involves 6 one-hour visits over 3 months, having blood drawn, and drinking vitamin G mixed in different beverages. Compensation available. If you are at least 18, do not smoke, are right handed, and would like more information, contact Graduate Student at 541.737.1111 or