Clinical trials and research are made possible with the support and participation of study volunteers. Participant materials for clinical research, including study flyers, advertisements, social media posts, marketing materials and informed consent forms, should be participant-centric, engaging and written using plain language. These materials also must adhere to the Duke Health brand guidelines, which includes following our standards for font, color and style.
The Federal Drug Administration and Institutional Review Board consider research recruitment material to be the beginning of the informed consent process. You may advertise a research study or clinical trial at Duke, but you may not explicitly state or imply that participation will lead to improved health or financial gain.
For some quick tips on what materials are reviewed by which entities for which reasons, please download this reference guide.
Any clinical recruitment materials targeted to members of the community, patients or participants of any kind should use the Duke Health logo.
Logos cannot be created for individual studies. The Duke Health logo or an approved Duke Health clinical service logo should be used to represent your study on all recruitment materials. Even if the study or trial is being conducted through the Duke University School of Medicine or Duke University School of Nursing, any public-facing materials must use a Duke Health logo.
Duke Health does not allow endorsements for or cobranding with other organizations. However, in a situation where Duke is collaborating with another organization on the study or trial, both logos can be used if there is a qualifying line listed above the Duke logo. For example, "Sponsored by" or "Study in collaboration with." A line like this would be needed any time a Duke logo is used with an outside organization's logo. The logos should also be spaced adequately from each other.
Adult and minor consent forms are considered legal documents, which can use the Duke University Health System (DUHS) logo at the top. This is the only use case where the DUHS logo can be used.
Participant-facing materials that advertise or explain clinical research should be written at a 6th-8th grade reading level at minimum. Strive for 5th grade when you can.
Readability is about both reading level and reading ease.
Paragraphs should be short – no more than three sentences is a standard principle of good readability. Sentences should be short and only convey one idea at a time. Try to limit sentences to no more than 10 words. Use bullets when you can in order to shorten sentences and keep things visually simple.
Use plain language to describe the clinical trial or study and avoid the use of medical jargon that is not typically used outside of a healthcare setting. There are several resources to assist you in the use of lay-friendly plain language, including:
- Duke University Medical Center Library and Archives Health Literacy Resource
- CDC Plain Language Materials and Resources
- University of Michigan Plain Language Medical Dictionary
- Health Literacy in Clinical Research Resource
- Plain Language Alternatives for Medical Jargon
- Duke CTSI Recruitment Innovation Center
- The RIC has a Medical Jargon Thesaurus – reach out for a copy.
- Write in the first person (use “we”) and avoid use of the passive voice.
- Avoid words with more than three syllables when possible.
- Keep sentences short. Do not include more than a few sentences in a paragraph.
- Consider replacing complex sentences with charts or bullet points to explain concepts.
- Ensure your materials have adequate white space to enhance readability.
- When including phone numbers, use hyphens between digits and eliminate parenthesis around the area code (ex: 919-999-9999).
- Websites should exclude the www or https:// in front of the url. Capitalize words in the url for easier reading (ex: DukeHealth.org).
All materials should follow the Duke Health branding guidelines on style. Here is an all-in-one resource to help you understand the Duke Health brand and style.
Below are some common do’s and don’ts for style on recruitment materials.
- Use colors from the approved Duke Health color palette, ensuring Duke Blue is the most prominent color in your materials.
- Text should be black, and headers and subheads can be Duke Blue. Text should not be any other color than black or Duke Blue.
- Photos used should be lifestyle photos or photos that represent the demographic of the community being recruited. Photos not accepted include:
- Clip art graphics
- 3D art
- Photos of medical equipment, procedures or internal organs (ex: syringes, blood, IV bags, depictions of internal organs or body parts)
- Photo collages
- Use of stock imagery to portray members of our care team
- Black and white photography
Research Marketing Material Creation
For information and support marketing and advertising your clinical research study or creating participant-facing materials, please reach out to the Recruitment Innovation Center (RIC). The RIC provides free support to study teams planning or needing to enhance awareness, engagement, recruitment and retention to their research projects.