Readability of the patient information statement and consent form

The Justice Health HREC wants to ensure that people who are participating in research fully understand what is involved. We are aware that it is difficult for authors to judge the level at which they are writing, particularly if they are used to writing for professional audiences. We are also aware of the research showing that much of the information produced for the public is hard to read for the intended audience.

You can use our template for the participant information sheet and consent form. The HREC recommends that all Justice Health NSW-led research uses this template.

When developing a participant information sheet, try to think clearly about who your audience is and their literacy levels. There is ample research available which will help guide your decision on this.

The Australian Government recommends that all information for the public be suitable for someone with an age 9 reading level, which is the age of someone in year 3 or year 4 at school. This will ensure that information is accessible to all people.

There are a number of ways to assess the readability of a piece of text. None are perfect and none guarantee that the final product is well written, but each can give a guide as to the level of difficulty of the text.

Below are some commonly used reading tests, and the scores a piece of text would need to achieve to be equivalent to an age 9 reading level.


Desired score for someone with reading age 9

Flesch reading ease

100 or more

Flesch-Kincaid grade level

4 or below

Gunning FOG

4 or below


4 or below

While these tests are not definitive, be aware that HREC will be using them as a guide. We request that you check the reading age of all information that will be provided to participants and work to ensure that it falls within Australian Government guidance.

If you would like some guidance on writing to an appropriate reading age, we recommend:

And here is an example of a participant information sheet that the HREC considers to be in appropriate language.


Research approval pathway

This flow chart details the process for researchers external to the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network 

This flow chart details the process for researchers internal to the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network