plain language statement

Project: Assembling fitspirational bodies: Social media and gender identity work
Responsible researcher: Professor Helen Cahill
Student researcher: Josie Reade


Thank you for your interest in participating in this research project. The information below will provide you with further information about this research project, so that you can decide if you would like to take part. Please take the time to read this information carefully. You may contact me to ask questions about anything you don’t understand or would like to know more about.

What is this research project about?

This research project aims to explore how women aged 18-35+ experience their bodies and gender in relation to the digitally mediated ‘fitspo’ phenomenon. ‘Fitspo’ typically refers to images, videos and motivational mantras that people post to social media with the purpose of inspiring themselves and others to live a fit and healthy life. This research project aims to provide a better understanding of how ‘fitspo’ affects women’s experiences of their bodies and gender.

What will I be asked to do?

In this research project, you will be asked whether the student researcher (Josie Reade) can observe your Instagram posts once a day, every day for a three-month period. You will also be asked to participate in two interviews that explore how you experience your body and gender in relation to your Instagram posts and your views about bodies, gender and social media more generally. Importantly, these interviews will provide an opportunity for you to speak about your Instagram posts in your own words. The first interview of up to one hour will be held approximately two weeks into the three-month period of observation and the second interview of up to 30 minutes will be held approximately two weeks before the end of the three-month period of observation. You will have the option to participate in these interviews on Instagram through the exchange of direct private messages, over the phone, or if located in Melbourne, in-person. While the phone and in-person interviews will likely take place in a single sitting, interviews on Instagram may involve several sittings depending on when you are active on Instagram to choose to respond to messages sent by the student researcher (Josie Reade).

At the conclusion of the first interview, you may be asked whether you would like to share this study’s advertisement with some of your personal Instagram contacts who you think may be interested in participating. This method of sharing will be to send them a link to the Instagram advertisement and study website.

What are the possible benefits?

This research project will generate new understandings about how women experience their bodies and gender in relation to social media. The results of this research project will inform educational efforts addressing issues concerning gender, body-image, fitness and wellbeing.

What are the possible risks?

Please note that, due to the subject of this research project, you will be asked to talk about body-image and there is a risk you may become emotionally distressed in relation to this topic. You are encouraged to seek help from the following support services if needed:

Beyond Blue (Telephone: 1300 22 4636 24 hours, 7 days a week): Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.

The Butterfly Foundation (Telephone: 1800 33 4673 8am to 9pm AEST, 7 days a week): The Butterfly Foundation provides information and support to people with eating disorders and body-image issues.

Do I have to take part?

Please be advised that your participation in this study is completely voluntary. Should you wish to withdraw at any stage, or to withdraw any data you have supplied, you are free to do so without prejudice.

How will I hear about the results of this research project?

Links to publications and press arising from this research project will be provided on the public outputs page of the study’s website.

What will happen to information about me?

We intend to protect your anonymity and the confidentiality of your responses to the fullest possible extent, within the limits of the Australian law. During the three-month period of observation, screenshots and/or recordings of content you post to Instagram will be collected as data. This content may include images, videos, captions, comments and hashtags as well as the time and location of posts. Content collected will primarily be used for data analysis, but may also be included in public outputs arising from this research project. Public outputs may include the thesis submitted by the student researcher (Josie Reade), written publications (e.g., journal articles and books) and conference presentations. In the consent form, you will be asked if you do not wish for certain content to be included in public outputs. You will also be asked if you would like your face blurred if any images or videos of you are included in public outputs. Please note that your name and Instagram username will be de-identified in public outputs through using a pseudonym (you will be given a false name). Data collected for this research project will be kept on a password protected computer and USB and will be deleted five years after the last public output arising from this project or a closely related research project where the data was used.

How do I agree to participate?

If you would like to participate, please indicate that you have read and understood this information by completing the consent form on the study’s website. The student researcher (Josie Reade) will then send you a message on Instagram to welcome you to the study and arrange a mutually convenient time for the first interview. At this point, the student researcher (Josie Reade) will also begin to follow you on Instagram to commence the three-month observation period of your Instagram posts. She will work under the supervision of the responsible researcher (Professor Helen Cahill).

Who can I contact if I have any concerns about the research project?

This research project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of The University of Melbourne. If you have any concerns or complaints about the conduct of this research project, which you do not wish to discuss with the research team, you should contact the Manager, Human Research Ethics, Research Ethics and Integrity, The University of Melbourne Victoria 3010 Australia. Telephone: +61 3 8344 2073 or Email: All complaints will be treated confidentially. In any correspondence please provide the name of the research team or the name or the ethics ID number which is 1749698.1.

Where can I get further information?

If you would like more information about this research project, please contact the researchers listed below. 

Josie Reade (student researcher) 
T: +61 413 767 467

Professor Helen Cahill (responsible researcher) 
T: +61 3 8344 9641



HREC: 1749698.1; Date: 30/10/17; Version: 1.2
Melbourne Graduate School of Education
The University of Melbourne Victoria 3010 Australia
T: +61 3 8344 8285 F: +61 3 8344 8529

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