Before you can start interviews, focus groups, or any other design research methods, you have to recruit participants. Recruiting isn’t hard, but it is something you must start early. Count on a few things when recruiting:

  • People will agree to do an interview and will then back out at the last minute
  • Complete strangers will complete your survey if it’s posted on social media
  • Scheduling focus groups will take longer than facilitating them

Despite my warnings, recruiting participants isn’t all gloom and doom. If you plan ahead, it’s typically a smooth process.

Where Do I Find Participants?

Your project will determine how difficult recruiting will be. If you are researching a phenomenon that involves hard-to-access people or subject matter that’s not very common, you may have a hard time recruiting participants. If your project explores content that is fairly common, you may find that participants will be easy to access. It is always best to recruit participants whom you do not know well. Visit the Sampling page to learn about the importance of recruiting participants who are not a “sample of convenience.”

You can get the word out about your research project in many different ways. Depending on the project, some of the following methods may be more effective than others:

  • Links to surveys posted on social media
  • Printed posters in public places
  • Word of mouth
  • Calling participants on the phone
  • Links or announcements on e-newsletters
  • Verbal public announcements at events
  • Online ads such as Google Ad Words, YouTube ads, or Spotify ads
  • Door-to-door solicitation
  • Asking people in public places
  • Printed flyers handed out in public places

Any time you recruit in public places, make sure you have permission to do so. Some places that seem public, like grocery stores or restaurants, are actually privately owned so you will need permission before you can recruit participants in these places.

Online Participants

A few services exist solely for participant recruiting.

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Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University

Updated: December 9, 2021 2:11 pm
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