I began recruiting for my main doctoral study in September. When I did so, I had this naïve vision of finding enough participants within a few days and completing my data collection by the end of October. Although I did give myself a wee cushion, realising that some participants might not complete the study until mid-November, I had expected that I would be done recruiting people long before then.
Only the reality of participant recruitment began to present itself early on. Still, I had hoped that one or two strong social media blitzes would get me the numbers I need. But here I am at the start of November, still trying to find more participants for my study.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a complete ghost town around here. It’s just that it’s a little (a lot?) more challenging than I had hoped it would be. And I don’t know why. I mean, it’s an exciting study, right!?
I am trying to find 12-15 people in each of three age groups:
- Generation Y: Born 1981-1997
- Generation X: Born 1965-1980
- Baby Boomers (or older): Born 1964 or earlier
My recruitment process has been fairly basic. I’ve created a short description of the research and a general overview of the participation activities, along with a short form to fill out for more information. From there, I send on a fuller description of participation details, along with the option of completing diaries electronically or by hand.
Once I hear back from potential participants, they are sent a second email with a consent form and diary instructions – as well as a couple of other bits of information and a prompt to schedule an interview. Then there might be a couple of follow-up emails to answer questions, check in on the diary process, and confirm an interview time.
If everyone who noted interest followed through, I would have more than enough Gen-Xers and Boomers. But I would only have 11 Gen-Ys. And if everyone who is actively engaging with me completes, I would have enough Gen-Xers. But I would want another 2-3 Boomers – and twice as many Gen-Ys.
And it’s those Generation Y folks who have me stumped!
I honestly thought that younger people would be more eager to participate in a study about online information and personal reputation. I honestly thought that these people would jump at the chance to talk about how they engage with social media.
Instead, it’s people from my own generation (Go, Gen-X, go!) who seem more eager to participate. And, to a slightly lesser extent, the Boomers are noting an interest.
But then life gets in the way and people decide to withdraw from the study.
I’ve spoken with other digital researchers and have heard that they, too, have struggled with finding “younger” participants, so I know it’s not just me. But that knowledge doesn’t help me find a solution.
I am trying to reach out to the younger people I know, to ask for their help in spreading the word. And I am trying to think of clever and interesting ways to reach the Gen-Ys I don’t know. But I’m running out of ideas – and time!
Still, I’ve not given up all hope; I’ve not considered shouting defeat.
But I am, as ever, happy to hear thoughts and suggestions on recruitment in general or recruiting those young whipper-snappers! (And I’m happy to hear from potential participants, too!) And hopefully, I’ll be sharing a story in the not-too-distant future about a full set of participants.