Recruiting research participants
Participant profilesThere is no such thing as a ‘typical user’, a generic person, or an audience of ‘everyone.’ Regardless if you are starting with a broad base and using research to help you identify your target audiences, or if you have a clearer idea of who you want to research with, you should be able to articulate some specifics about their profile. Be as clear as you can about what features or experiences you would like your research participants to have. Recruitment profiles should share the characteristics and goals of your target audience. For example, people in their 30s in a certain income bracket and who have had a minor car accident in the last 6 months. Or women over 40 who live in a city and cycle regularly. Layering too many unnecessarily specific features can make recruiting more difficult (and result in useless data), but having too few features could mean you waste time speaking to the wrong people. Try to find a balance between the two.
IncentivesGiving research participants fair compensation for their time is an important ethical point. People taking part in your research are giving up their time, their personal stories, and their personal information for the development of your product or service, for which participants will not continue to benefit. You can’t make a good product or service without them. Make sure you have set aside enough budget for incentives that are valuable, fair, and exchangeable. Consider asking participants what they think is a fair exchange and let them lead the way on what incentives they will get within your budget.
Research information sheetThis is a short introduction to your research project. It should give people enough information for them to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to take part as participants. It outlines
- Who you are/who the research team is;
- What the research project is for, and why it is happening;
- Incentives for taking part;
- A data protection statement detailing how personal data will and will not be used, how it will be stored, and for how long.
ScreenersA screener is a series of questions that help you filter in and out the right research participants. It is a more developed version of your participant profiles. Your screener should include:
- A description of the behaviours you are looking for
- A skill level that is appropriate for your research
- A level of domain knowledge appropriate to your research
How to recruitYou can do your own recruitment through email outreach or posting your information sheet and screeners to places on social media or in physical spaces you identify as being used by your target groups. Go anywhere you are allowed to post something. Consider doing direct message outreach to moderators of online groups that are private. Ask the corner shop owner if you can pin up a flyer. You can also take time to phone around different groups and organisations you think can help you reach the right people. Doing your own recruitment is about building relationships and engendering trust. You are essentially asking people to share their personal information and stories with strangers so thoughtful outreach can demonstrate your goodwill. Doing your own recruitment is especially recommended if you would like to start to build a participant repository for future research. You can hire a professional recruitment agency, however, these services can be expensive and using them removes a relationship building aspect that may be valuable to you longer term. Agencies are handy if you are in a pinch with time, and if you think you might need one, make sure your budget allows for it. A simple Google search will help you to find a suitable agency.
Here are some additional resources about screeners:
- Example of an online screener: IDEO posting on Facebook with a link to a screener in a Google form https://www.facebook.com/IDEOresearch/posts/3364256740293566
- Recruiting for people with disabilities: Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design has created this example screener for people with disabilities but it can also be used as a model for general recruitment http://www.uiaccess.com/accessucd/ut_ppt-screen.html
- Service Design Tools short screener description https://servicedesigntools.org/tools/recruiting-screener
Step ActivityIn the comments section below, we want you to tell us: What questions would you ask in a screener? What questions would you not ask in a screener? Why?
The Human Face of User Research: How to do User Research Online and Offline
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