Someone asked you to participate in research?

A guide for sex workers


Deciding whether or not to participate


1. Ask around about the researcher:

  • Do any other sex workers know them?
  • Have they done research with sex workers before?
  • Are they generally liked, or at least not disliked by sex working communities?
  • Were they involved in the constitutional challenges to prostitution laws?
  • If so, did they advocate for or against the full decriminalization of sex work?


2. Google the researcher:

  • Have they written books, articles, or blog posts on sex work before? If yes, do the books, articles, or blog posts look good or bad to you?
  • Are they on Facebook or Twitter talking about sex work stuff? What do you think about their posts or tweets and the groups they join or follow?
  • Have they given interviews about sex work for newspapers or TV? If yes, did they say things you agree with? Did they say anything that makes you uncomfortable or not trust them?


3. If you know and trust another university-based researcher, check in with them on these questions.

  • Can they do a search in their university library and see if this researcher’s name comes up?


4. If you know another sex worker who has either done research or participated in research before, ask them about their experience.

  • Did they feel safe?
  • How did they decide if they could trust the researcher?
  • How did they actually benefit from the research?
  • Do they feel like they can check in with the researcher and get a response, if they need one, at any point?
  • Would they engage or participate in research, again?



You’ve decided to participate. What are your rights?


You have the right to be given all the information necessary to make an informed decision about participating in research before you decide, and then again when you meet/email/talk on the phone with the researcher, their research assistant, or their community consultant/liaison.


You have the right to take as long as you need to go through and understand all of the information about the study BEFORE you begin to speak or correspond with the researcher, their research assistant, or their community consultant/liaison.


You have the right to refuse to participate at all, and to tell the researcher exactly why you refuse and what they should/could have done better. Some things to look for:

  • They couldn’t say how your identity/privacy will be protected.
  • They couldn’t explain the benefits and risks of their research.
  • They weren’t respectful.
  • They couldn’t assure you that, to the best of their ability, their research wouldn’t be used to assist anti-prostitution groups or researchers, or to further stigmatize sex workers with healthcare providers (doctors, nurses, emergency department front desk personnel, etc.), social workers (those who work for/with Child and Family Services, sexual assault clinics or drop-in centres), or police.

You also have the right to refuse to participate without giving any reason at all.


You have the right to decide at any point in any study or interview to stop talking/sharing and leave. Even if you leave, you’re still entitled to the pay/gift card/etc. associated with the study.


You have the right to have your identity protected in the study when the results are published, and in all of the steps that you participate in (including email, interviews, and follow-up).


You have the right to receive and comment on a full typed transcript of your interview AND a summary of the interview that the researcher creates for you. You have a right to receive your transcript in a reasonable timeframe after your interview. You have the right to insist that any changes/revisions/edits you want in your information be made and shown to you.


You have the right to report the researcher to the research ethics board at their institution if you have any problems while participating in the research, or corresponding with the researcher, their research assistant, or their community consultant/liaison. Contact information for this research ethics person or office should be included on the information and consent form the researcher gives to you before and at your interview.