IRB Guidelines and Confidentiality and Anonymity Agreements
When preparing the final study for F&S and final publication, doctoral students should ensure that their document has met all aspects of confidentiality. If a student researcher promised the study site that he or she would not identify them in the study, then it is imperative that the student include neither the name nor any information that could lead a reader to identify the study site. In addition, doctoral students likely promised confidentiality to the individual participants as a condition of IRB approval, and it is especially critical that the reader not be able to identify individual people based on information anywhere in the final document.
Form and Style Resources
- FAQ About IRB, Anonymity, and Confidentiality in Doctoral Capstone Studies
- IRB's Guidance on Masking Partner Organizations
- Additional steps and tips:
- Students should search for the study site name in the document to ensure that all instances have been removed or renamed, including in the Acknowledgments and Dedication pages.
- Students should also ensure that they have complied with the IRB agreement to assign identifiers (e.g., P1, P2...) or pseudonyms to individual participants, and that no real names of individuals are used.
- If the appendices include any documents that contain the name, logo, letterhead, or other identifying markings or information, such material should be redacted or removed.
- The final document should not contain ANY personal contact information (e.g., phone numbers, e-mail addresses, street addresses).
- This includes the doctoral student’s own contact information, as well as anyone else mentioned in the main text or appendices.
- Material in the appendices may include the names of individuals who have granted permission to use or reprint their content, but not their contact information (e.g., e-mail, etc.). This confidential information should also be removed.
- Simply highlighting text in black does not redact the text once the document is published as a PDF file; the text underneath is still accessible.
- Instead, students may replace information with “XXXXXX” or replace the text with “XXXXX” and then use the highlighting tool to black out the Xs for the desired redacted appearance.
- If students plan to include scanned images, they should either redact any confidential information before scanning or insert an opaque object over the scanned image where the confidential information appears.