Research Woes: Usability Study Recruitment

Happy October! I can’t believe I’m about one-third of the way through my final semester of grad school. I knew I finished five weeks of the semester, but a churchgoer who teaches Early Childhood Education at my grad school informed me yesterday.

Recruiting people is hard. End of blog! No wait! Come back!

A little bit of background first: my graduate project is a usability study on a mobile and web application my university developed to improve emergency healthcare services for autistic children (or any children who may experience anxiety of the unknown). As part of the usability study, I am one of two people responsible for recruiting children between the ages of 6 through 11. I have to find at least 20 people, but I’m kind of struggling with that right now.

As of this writing, I have six children participating. I started recruiting this summer, but no one contacted me or the doctoral student who is leading the entire study preparation. Since the usability study hasn’t started yet (it was originally supposed to happen during the summer), I had to quickly start finding participants. No one got back to me until we edited the flyer to have my contact information on it (and due to my real name, university, and contact info being on that flyer, I will NOT post the flyer here).

I was reassured by my DBT group facilitator that it’s usually not easy to find participants, but that didn’t help (at the time, no one had contacted me). I was scared that if I didn’t find enough people, I wouldn’t be able to graduate in December. The anxiety caused headaches and having a headache at work isn’t fun.

Luckily, I have some help. Not only did I email a bunch of people on my contacts list, but my dad and husband posted the flyer on Facebook. Two-thirds of my current interest list came from people spreading the word from my dad’s Facebook. The other two are my niece and my best friend’s nephew. Yesterday my church had a small group of people outside for a “parking lot social hour” so I passed around flyers to the people who were there. The professor from my university luckily came because she’s going to be a big help. Not only does she teach in the Early Childhood Education major, but she was hired to help start a Gifted and Creative Education program at the university. Some of her students are parents and she’s going to post copies of the flyer around the education building. Plus, she’s offering extra credit to any student who can find children to help. Students love extra credit.

I want to wait until sometime next week before I pass out more flyers (thanks to the UPS Store for making prints of my flyers so I won’t waste my husband’s printer ink) because I have a feeling that an influx of interested parents are going to contact me soon. I feel like I would have an easier time finding people if there was a larger age range, but the second usability study which will be for people ages 6 through 18 won’t be happening until after I graduate.

Do I have any advice for people seeking participants for a study? Start early and look for opportunities for recruiting within your community. My church is still virtual so that made things a bit more difficult for me and while mom’s church is about to return to a multiplatform service (in-person with a live stream for virtual participants), mom’s doing church virtually because she lives far from it and she is becoming dissatisfied with people at the church. Finding people won’t be easy.