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Find Participants

The goal and questions of your research determines who and how many people you recruit. Recruitment takes time and is a key step in design research. Don’t rush this process!

Finding Participants

Depending on who your audience is, there will be multiple ways to find and recruit participants. Consider what is most suitable and relevant for your project. Think about what channels will best reach the intended audience.

You may recruit people through

  • Ministry stakeholder groups
  • Industry associations and special interest groups
  • Community groups and non-profit organizations
  • Service partners or organizations receiving operating funding from the Province
  • Social media groups (for example, Facebook groups) and social networks (for example, Twitter)
  • Referrals from other research participants
  • Referrals from other public servants

If you are doing intercept testing you may intercept people in

  • Public places (for example, libraries, parks, shopping centres, university/college campuses)
  • ServiceBC offices
  • Ministry service partners

Always contact a manager or office supervisor for permission to setup an intercept testing location. Don’t show up unannounced!

Create Recruitment Messages

A recruitment message is an easy way to quickly describe your research project to potential participants. Depending on where and how the message will be sent out, the length and level of detail will vary.

If you ask stakeholders or service partners to help you contact participants, give a clear picture of the kinds of participants you are looking for. For example, if your research topic is focused on student loans, you might say “we are recruiting participants who are applying for BC student loans.”

Asking stakeholders or community groups to send out your recruitment messaging through their established communication channels is a great way to connect with participants who may not typically engage with government. Channels like email newsletters and Facebook pages often yield a large number of responses.

Your messaging should include a

  • Brief overview of what the project is about
  • Qualifying participant statement or question
  • Estimated length of research session
  • Researcher contact information
  • Date range when session will be scheduled
  • Compensation (if applicable)

Sample Participant Recruitment Message

Are you a parent or guardian of a child with autism spectrum disorder? If so, we are interested in speaking to you about government autism services.

The Province is improving how families learn about and use government autism services. We’d like to spend approximately 60 minutes with you to better understand your needs and your challenges when accessing autism information and utilizing funding.

What’s in it for you? You’ll receive a $50 gift card as a thank you for your time. We are scheduling interviews for January. If you are interested, please contact or call 250-555-1234 by January 4.

We will be qualifying participants. Please note, only those selected to participate in the research will be eligible for compensation.

Sample Stakeholder/Service Provider Recruitment Message

To Whom It May Concern:

We are working on a project with the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) to improve how families, providers, and organizations like yourself learn about and use government autism services. MCFD identified [Service Provider Name] as a key contact for the project because of your connections to families who may have a child diagnosed with ASD, or who are in the process of pursuing a diagnosis.

We’re doing research to better understand the needs and challenges that families may encounter when accessing autism information and funding. There are two ways we’re hoping you can help.

  1. Could we schedule an interview with yourself or one of your colleagues who has experience working with families navigating autism information and services, for us to learn from you about the needs and challenges you see and how you provide services?
  2. Could you help connect us with families who may be interested in participating in the project? A large part of our work is talking to parents and caregivers across the province about their stories, challenges and successes with autism services in B.C.

Sessions will take place in the first three weeks of January. We go to where parents/caregivers are – in their homes, at work, or a place they feel comfortable – and spend about an hour getting to know them and hearing about their experiences. These longer behavioural interviews help our research focus on the entire parent journey. We typically need about an hour with each person, but can accommodate a shorter interview. All parents/caregivers interviewed received a stipend as a thank you for their time.

If you have further questions, feel free to give us a call, and please let us know if there is a good time to meet in person. Thank you in advance for your time. Your involvement will help us better understand needs and identify opportunities to improve autism information and service delivery in B.C.

Screen Participants

A screener is a list of criteria used to check whether or not a potential participant would match with the characteristics of your audience group.

Don’t feel like you need to include every respondent in the research if the individual is not a strong match for the research. Not doing the sessions saves you and the individual time. Thank them for their interest in the project, and ask if they are open to you contacting them in the future for other research projects.

Sample screener criteria:

  • Location or community
  • Demographics
  • Age
  • Job or profession
  • Date and time availability
  • Confidence with technology
  • Access to high-speed internet, if doing remote design research

If you are doing research remotely, you should make sure participants are willing to download specific software onto their home computer, if needed. For example, downloading Skype for video calls.

Schedule Sessions

Once participants have been screened and selected, keep them informed about their participation in the research process. When scheduling a session, be flexible, but firm when picking a date, time and location to meet.

For example

  • “We are scheduling interviews in Victoria on Monday, January 13 and Tuesday, January 14 between 8am and 6pm.”
  • “We will be in your community next Friday and have availability to meet at 1:30pm or 4pm.”
  • “We are happy to host you at our meeting space downtown. If you prefer, we could also meet at your home or office.”
  • “We can meet online by video chat or the phone on the following days (list days) between the following hours (list hours).”

Whenever possible, use a participant’s preferred method of communication (for example, phone call, email, or text) to contact them when the session date is set. It’s also good practice to give them a courtesy reminder a day in advance of the session.

When conducting remote research, make sure to ask the participant to download and test any software and technology (for example, internet connection, camera, microphone, application) before the session.

If you are planning to use a software tool participants have never used before, or you are concerned about the participant’s comfort level with technology, it’s a good idea to have a comfort call before the session. This will allow you to walk them through the tool and answer any questions they might have.

Sessions Per Day

Do not schedule more than four 1-hour sessions per day. Leave a buffer of at least 45 minutes between sessions.

While it’s tempting to schedule as many sessions as possible in one day, experience tells us this isn’t good for anyone.

  • Research is tiring. Interviewing, active listening, observing, and note-taking require a high degree of focus.
  • Research can be emotionally taxing. Depending on your research topic, participants may share highly sensitive and emotional stories. Giving yourself enough time to process and recover is very important.

Conducting research remotely amplifies these effects, as it often results in hours of screen time for researchers and working in isolation. Resist the temptation to squeeze more remote sessions into a day, just because there is less travel.

Pick A Location

A good research location is one that is easy for the participant to access and makes them feel comfortable. Whenever possible, do the research in the context that a participant would use a service (for example, at home or in the office).

Some participants may prefer or need to speak with you outside regular 9 to 5 working hours. Be flexible and accommodating in finding the right time and location for meeting.

Some participants are not comfortable with a researcher coming to their home. Offer multiple options and let them pick which is best for them.

You may consider doing research at a

  • Participant’s home
  • Participant’s place of employment
  • Government office or meeting room
  • Local coffee shop
  • Community organization

If meeting in person for the research is not possible, you can do research activities remotely.

No matter where the research takes place, think about the safety of both the participant and yourselves as researchers. Try to create a comfortable, and quiet space where the participant can speak honestly about the subject.