13 Ways to Recruit Study Participants Online 

Ask any PhD student who requires participants for their research and no doubt one of their main challenges will be recruitment. Over the years I’ve had a number of experiences with recruitment and I have faced multiple issues, particularly when recruiting from a population such as young carers.

This post won’t go into all the difficulties and considerations that need to be made when recruiting, I have another post coming up about approaches and questions to ask yourself when you start looking for people to take part in your research. Instead this post is going to provide 13 ways that you can recruit for your study online (but not necessarily just for online studies !) in the hope that it might be able to reduce your recruitment woes.

I realise that many of these are going to be Psychology specific, and may not be useful for some subjects – in which case please do get in touch and let me know if there are any additional links or places I can add to this list.

Undoubtedly, the internet is an incredible resource. It links us to people we may never have come across in our day-to-day lives, and the geographical range of contacting people is somewhat limitless. This seems to be the primary go to for recruiting participants, and there are a huge number of services, websites and options for taking this route when searching for research participants. Of course, if you are conducting an online survey – then your efforts may be rewarded more quickly, rather than a project that involves meeting individuals in person. Regardless – sometimes you get the point when you are willing to try anything and it’s all worth a shot!

Free:

  1. Craiglist: You can advertise your study in the ‘volunteering’ category on this website (and indeed any other sites that allow you to post ‘classifieds’. Ensure that you make it clear what your study entails, the length of time it will take and also, most importantly, be absolutely certain that your ethical approval has this type of advertising covered.
  2. Call for participants: This is an online website where you can recruit for participants ‘fast, free and ethically’. You’ll need to access the ‘researchers’ tab on the homepage and submit the details for your study. You can provide a direct link, or potential participants can use the website to let you know they are interested and you can make contact with them. This is particularly good for online studies, but you can also specify your region and location if the study takes place in person.
  3. Survey Circle: This website was set up on the basis of mutual support and research participation. It works on a points based system, when you take part in research you are awarded points and the more points you have – the more you are supported with your research. The only downside with this is that it is only helpful for online surveys. It also requires some time on your part to take part in other people’s research and to develop your ranking, so that when the time comes your research will be supported in the best possible way.
  4. The Inquisitive Mind (“In-Mind”): This website is an online magazine that delivers content based on psychology, the mind and research. The great thing about this site is that it publishes content from all over the world, and it also posts online studies from all over the world. From the home page the ‘Participate!’ panel lists studies and has information for submitting your own research.
  5. Social Psychology Network: The clue is in the name with this one – its specific to Social Psychology. However it is currently hosting 458 online based studies – which perhaps demonstrates it’s openness to display studies and help research hit their recruitment goals. A perk with this website is that all studies are also automatically advertised on twitter and an RSS feed, broadening the scope of your study without any extra effort on your part. The request form to add your study looks relatively straight forward and easy to complete.
  6. Psychological Research on the Net: This is obviously another very specific website and can only help with online studies, but again, they advertise a huge range of studies from all areas of psychology. There is a list of recently added studies and also lists of studies divided by type. This is a no fuss website that keeps it simple and does the job it sets out to do!
  7. Online Psychology Research: Very similar to above. Alongside the opportunity to post your study and take part in other studies, you can also access useful information about conducting research.
  8. University Notice Board: Most universities have a centralised online ‘notice board’ where staff can advertise things like services, items for sale and it is also a place where you could advertise your research. Particularly useful for in person research as you will be advertising to those at your university and therefore most likely those in your geographical location. If you offer reimbursement, be sure to put that in the title. If your work is going to impact a particular population, be sure to put that in your title too.
  9. Research Gate: Aside from being an excellent website for connecting with other researchers, sharing your research and accessing other researchers publications, there is also the opportunity to advertise your research through an update or post to your about me section. This is particularly helpful because the chances are you will be following other researchers who are similar to you in their interests, and therefore may have access to the population you are seeking, or advice as to how to recruit more effectively!
  10. LinkedIn: In a similar way to Research Gate you can post an advert for your study in your feed, and ask those you are connected with to share to their own social media pages or to take part in your research.
  11. Facebook groups: If you are recruiting from a very specific population, Facebook groups can be a very useful tactic in gathering research participants. Be sure to contact the moderator/owner of the group before making any posts, unless they specifically state you can do so. It is a matter of respect and courtesy. Group owners can be very protective of their members, particularly those who are a vulnerable population, so be gentle in your approach and understand that a ‘no’ may not be a reflection of you or your research.

Paid advertising

12. Gumtree: Whilst primarily free, you can upload an advertisement to the charity and voluntary works job section if you are not reimbursing participants. If you are reimbursing participants you could add it to the casual work section. Additionally, those studies which can be completed online or via Skype could be advertised in the work from home section. This can be useful for in person research as you could advertise in your local area and individuals searching will pick up your study. As I said, initially this is free, but there is also the opportunity to ‘feature’ your advertisement, which currently costs £17 for 7 days, or £30 for 14 days. Perhaps you could start off with a free advert and if there is little luck opt for the featured one.

13. Find Participants: For a £30 monthly subscription you are able to send emails to up to 1000 people who are registered on the database as willing participants. The only downside to this website is that individuals taking part in research usually expect a payment or reimbursement of some kind.

As above, if you have any suggestions for further resources or places to advertise studies, please get in touch!

Until next time 🙂

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