Qualitative studies are usually used to investigate social phenomena, dealing with subjective aspects that cannot be translated into numbers. But do you know how to recruit participants for research with this format? In this article we we provide you the information about Recruitment of participants in qualitative research.
In quantitative research , the student needs to select a sample based on statistical data. In qualitative research, the selection of participants should occur based on criteria previously defined by the researcher.
Tips for recruiting research participants
As much as qualitative research is concerned with the meaning of things and events, it needs to follow scientific and methodological rigor. And this rigor begins with the selection of participants. Here are the important steps for recruiting survey participants:
1 – Understand the logic
The logic that governs the selection of participants for a qualitative research is different from the quantitative one. The quantitative study needs a representative sample of the studied population, based on a sample calculation. Quali, on the other hand, seeks participants who have experienced the studied phenomenon.
2 – Understand your research problem
Your research problem, which takes shape from a guiding question , is the research engine. So who are the people who can provide useful information about the difficulty your study is intended to solve? By answering this question, you create one or more participant profiles.
3 – Define the participant’s profile
Each survey has a participant profile, that is, people who share characteristics or experiences in common. However, there is also the possibility of the same study evaluating more than one profile to obtain a complete analysis of the studied phenomenon.
The profile is made up of a series of characteristics that participants need to have in common, such as age group, profession, gender, neighborhood where they live, personal habits, among others. Raising these characteristics, there is also the possibility of creating personas, that is, fictional characters that represent the people you want to reach.
4 – Apply a selection technique
There are some techniques for selecting qualitative research participants. Among them, it is worth mentioning:
Intentional selection is based on the judgment of the researcher. He believes that a person X will help to answer the research problem, that is, he will contribute with relevant information for the investigation.
Another intentional technique is theoretical selection, widely used within the Grounded Theory method (theory based on data). As the researcher analyzes the information collected, he creates categories. And to confirm the existence of these categories, he seeks participants who align with these subdivisions.
There is also another intentional selection technique called opportunistic. This method makes sense when the researcher is faced with a situation that is opportune for their study – something that other researchers may not have access to.
Example: a researcher, who is also a journalist, had the opportunity to experience the explosion of Covid-19 cases in Amazonas at the beginning of the year. He closely followed the despair of the victims, the race for oxygen and the lack of beds. So he talked to people and collected data.
While in intentional selection the researcher runs after the participants, in voluntary selection people volunteer to contribute to the studies.
Among the most used voluntary selection techniques, it is worth highlighting the Snowball (snowball, in translation into Portuguese). In it, the researcher contacts a participant, who, after contributing to the study, indicates other people to participate in the research. In other words, it is the participants who indicate other people with a certain profile to contact the researcher and participate in the investigation.
Another form of voluntary selection is to publicize the survey and provide a telephone number or e-mail for interested parties to contact. Dissemination can be carried out through social networks or with posters spread around the university itself.
Example: A researcher wants to find out what life is like for LGBTQIA+ people on the outskirts of São Paulo. He gets in touch with Maria, a lesbian woman who lives in Capão Redondo and participates in a debate group at the university. After interviewing Maria, the researcher asks her to indicate another person from the LGBTQIA+ community who also lives in a peripheral neighborhood to contribute to the study.
selection for convenience
The researcher, after having a very clear profile of the people he wants to find, chooses to go to a place where he will probably find participants who align with the characteristics of the outlined profile.
Example: A study wants to verify the consumption habits of teenagers. To obtain data, the researcher decides to go to the exit of a school to approach young people from Elementary School II and High School.
5 – Define the data collection instrument
After profiling participants based on your research problem and choosing a selection technique, it’s time to plan your data collection. Think about which instruments will be used to gather information from participants.
In the social and human areas, the most used methods to collect are:
- Interview : the semi-structured format, which mixes objective and open questions, is the most used. It can happen via Google Forms , by videoconference or in person.
- Focus group : brings together people with some characteristic in common to talk to each other. There is always a moderator to organize the group and ask questions.
- Ethnography : the objective of the method is to delve into the daily life of a certain group of people, in order to understand the habits and culture in depth.
- Observation : the researcher lives in a certain situation, with the objective of observing and registering the data in a diary.
- Documents : analyzes can also be carried out from images, texts, letters, photos, publications, among other materials.
- Case study: the researcher tries to listen
- Life stories: the researcher does not ask questions, but rather listens in silence to the life story of each participant, which may reflect events of their time, social relationships and collective experiences.
6 – Make the approach
The last step in recruiting research participants is the approach. In the case of intentional selection, it is worth sending an invitation to the possible participant, by email, Facebook or Instagram. Another suggestion is to go personally to meet the person and schedule a day for the interview.
Write a short, sweet message in your approach. See an example below:
If participants are recruited based on voluntary selection, it is necessary to prepare publicity materials: a poster or art to be published on Facebook, for example. Make sure the contact information you provide is correct, after all, it’s the attendees who get in touch.
Whichever approach you take, remember that this is academic research, so no monetary incentives can be offered in exchange for participation.