Cover letters, rather than consent forms, may be used for some categories of exempt minimal-risk research with adults such as survey or questionnaire research on non-sensitive topics. The cover letter should state the purpose of the survey, the expected number of respondents, a description of the topic of the survey and the content of the questions on the survey, a statement about confidentiality or anonymity, and a statement about how the participant may obtain additional information about the study. The cover letter should also state that a decision not to participate will not affect, " … Your current or future relationships with (names of relevant entities, such as The University of Texas at Austin, standing in this class, grade in this class, status on this team, etc.)."
The participant should be allowed to keep the cover letter. He or she need not sign it, because responding to the survey indicates a willingness to participate in the study. If you need help designing a cover letter we suggest using the Consent Form 2 - you should include the required elements but may remove the signature section and revise the format to suit your specific needs.
For cover letters for internet research please use the Consent to Participate in Research.