Debriefing Form: Sample

What should debriefing procedures / debriefing form be like?

  • Must happen in a way that all participants are aware of the full true purpose of the study and none left undebriefed. This most commonly means that participants are debriefed after the testing session ends but before they leave the experimenter’s presence.
  • Participants must then be told the purpose of the study, and also be presented with a form that explains this. The participant then reads and signs the debriefing form to say they have read it. However, there is a separate part of the form saying if they ARE or ARE NOT willing to have their data included. If the do not respond to that second question, or respond NO, then their data is NOT included. There cannot be “passive re-consent;” if researchers do not get a definite response, that they cannot use that participant’s data.
  • The form should not only include an explanation of the deception in the current study, but also a brief explanation about why deception must take place in social and behavioral research more generally.


Sample Debriefing Form


  1. Sometimes in research it is necessary not to tell the participants the hypothesis. We can’t always tell people about the purpose of the experiment because:
    1. It might affect our results–If we tell people the purpose of the experiment or how we predict people will act in the experiment, they may deliberately do whatever it is they think we want them to do, just to help us out and give us the results that they think we want. Or, it is also possible that the opposite might occur. That is, if we tell people our predictions; they might deliberately act in the opposite direction to show us that we can’t figure them out. Either way, we would not have a very good indication of how they would act in situation in everyday life.
    2. Do you understand why sometimes we cannot reveal the full purpose of the experiment at the onset?
    3. In the study today, you completed a number of questionnaires and did a number of other tasks. Do you have any idea what we were really looking for in this study? Do you have any idea what we were hypothesizing in this study? Please list any ideas on the form we have given you. Please also write anything you think about what the study was actually about?
  2. Now I would like to tell you the purpose of this study.
    1. What we are most interested in is whether the presence of other people affects goal setting. We predict that the presence of other people will affect the goals people set. Is this what you thought we were interested in? When did you think this?
      1. For the Control Condition: Today, you were in the control condition, which means you were engaging in the goal setting task without any observation by another person. What do you think that we predict you would do?
      2. For the Important Other Condition: Today, you were in the ‘important other condition’, which means you were engaging in the last trial of the goal setting task while being observed by a visiting faculty member from another University. The person who observed the study today is actually not a faculty member; he is an undergraduate research assistant in our lab. Did you believe that the person watching was a faculty member? If not, what made you doubt he was a faculty member? What do you think that we predict you would do?
      3. For the Peer Condition: Today you were in the ‘peer condition’ which means you were engaging in the last trial of the goal setting task while being observed by a fellow student also participating in the study. The person also participating in this study is actually not another participant; he is an undergraduate research assistant in out lab. Did you believe that he was actually a fellow participant? If not, what made you doubt he was a fellow participant? What do you think that we predict you would do?
    2. There are three conditions to our study: people who set goals alone, people who set goals with an important other, and people who set goals with a peer. We are interested in if different audiences lead to people setting different goals. We are also interested in how the performance of the person relates to the goals they have set.
      1. For the Important Other Condition: Did you feel that the presence of the observer made you set a different goal? If so, how was that goal different from previous goals and why do you think you set a different goal? If not, Why not? Did you think the goal you set affected your performance? Why or Why not?
      2. For the Peer Condition: Did you feel that the presence of the observer made you set a different goal? If so, how was that goal different from previous goals and why do you think you set a different goal? If not, Why not? Did you think the goal you set affected your performance? Why or Why not?
    3. We are not really interested in your performance on this task or your perceptions of the University. We are more interested in how the presence of other people affected your goal setting.
      1. For the Important Other Condition: We tried very hard to make you believe that you were being observed by a faculty member. We tried also to stress the idea that the faculty member valued and was impressed by high-scoring students. If there was anything that you did not believe about this, please let me know now. Also, let me know if there is anything you think would make the study more realistic.
      2. For the Peer Condition: We tried very hard to make you believe that you were being observed by a fellow participant. We tried also to stress the idea that the participants did not like or value high-scoring students. If there was anything that you did not believe about this, please let me know now. Also, let me know if there is anything you think would make the study more realistic.
  3. Obviously, if we tell people outright what we are studying, it might affect their behavior. Thus we had to conceal the real purpose of the experiment until now. Do you understand now why I didn’t tell you the real purpose of the experiment at the outset? Do you have any questions
  4. There are some final things I need to talk to you about.
    1. We have lots of people participating in this study or similar studies both during this semester and across the next few semesters. The success of this study requires that the people who participate have no idea in advance what the study is about and that we are really interested in whether the audience affects the goals people set. What this means is that I need you not to say anything about the study to anyone else. Why?
      1. If you talk to others about the purpose of the study it would be the same as I told them at the beginning all about the purpose of the study. Their responses wouldn’t be spontaneous and natural. So you discuss this study with others, we wouldn’t have enough valid data to draw any conclusions about how people naturally behave in this situation. In short, the study would be wasted; your time would be wasted and our time would be wasted.
      2. We want everyone to get some educational value out of being in this experiment and so I am telling you what our true hypothesis was. However, if you tell someone else what happened and they or a friend of theirs participates in this study, then they won’t get the same experience from this experiment that you do. Part of your requirement is based on learning a deeper understanding of how research is done and the importance of aspects of research (like deception and debriefing, like this one), if a person enters the study knowing the true hypothesis, he or she would be robbed of this aspect.
      3. You may wonder what difference it makes to tell a friend or roommate or boyfriend or girlfriend because they will never be in the study. But they may say something to someone else who will be in the study. Or they may be in the study or a similar study down the road. I realize you may have an urge to tell people about what happened in this experiment. However, I am going to ask you to keep what happened and the purpose of the experiment secret.
      4. In short what this means, is after you leave this door I am asking you to not discuss the details of this experiment. We have, in the past, overheard students talking around campus, in the building, waiting for a T.A, or in the Reitz Union talking about studies. Keep in mind one reason we ask you not to tell anyone, is you never know who else is hearing you.
    2. If anybody asks you about the experiment, just tell them that it was an experiment on how people make first impressions. Don’t make a big mystery about the study. Just say that you were in such and such experiment and that you are not at liberty to discuss the nature of the experiment.
  5. I hope you see why it is important not to tell anyone the purpose of the experiment.
    1. We have tried to make this experiment as interesting as possible for you. Please resist any temptation to talk about this experiment.
    2. So will you promise not to say anything about the experiment?
  6. Do you have any questions? Comments? Suggestions?

I have read aloud and discussed all of these points with the participant and allowed her/him to ask questions.

_____________________                    ___________

Researcher                                              Date

I have had all the points on this form explained to me, and I had the opportunity to ask questions about the true purpose and experimental manipulations that took place in this study.

_____________________                    ___________

Participant                                              Date

Research participant,

Now that you have learned the true and full purpose of the current study and know about the actual manipulations that took place as part of this study, will wish to have your data to be included in this research project?

Please Sign Only One Of The Lines Below

YES, I DO want my data to be included in this study

_____________________                    ___________

Participant                                                 Date

OR

NO, I DO NOT want my data to be included in this study

_____________________                    ___________

Participant                                                 Date