Participant Recruitment

From the first moment that your potential participant becomes aware of your study, you are informing your participant about the study.  That is why the federal regulations consider recruitment to be the beginning of the consent process for the study.  Although you will not go into detail about the study in an initial advertisement, a participant should have a basic idea of the purpose of the study and what their participation will entail.  Not only will you have better informed participants, you will likely attract participants who are really serious about being in the study. 

Recruitment can take place in many forms, including letters, emails, phone conversations, conversations in person, advertisements (i.e. flyers, handouts, posters, TV ads, radio ads, Internet ads, and newspaper postings), etc.  Please remember that when you submit your protocol to the Board, they need to see a copy of any printed recruitment materials and/or a script of what you will say to participants (depending on your method of contact).  For additional help producing flyers, check out our flyer template.

The NIH funds a free and secure recruitment tool called ResearchMatch that helps to connect researchers with volunteers that are interested in participating in studies.  If you are interested in using ResearchMatch to help advertise for your study, please complete the ResearchMatch Advertising Template and submit it with your study documents to the IRB for review and approval.

What you SHOULD include in recruitment materials
  • The term “research” or "study."  Participants need to know that they are responding to a research study, not to a promise for free treatment or payment. 
  • A general description of the purpose of the study. Potential participants should have a basic idea of what the study entails.  This information does not need to be detailed, but it should be explained in layman’s terms.  Where possible, include information about what participants will do and the time required of the participant. 
  • Details on how to enroll. Participants need a way to connect with the study team, so be sure to provide your contact information.
  • Inclusion/ Exclusion criteria (where appropriate).  You may be looking for a participant with certain criteria, or there may be reasons why a participant would not be eligible to participate.  Including this information in your recruitment materials will help the interested person know if they are a good match for your study. 
  • IRB-SBS protocol number. Our office assigns every study a number for tracking purposes.  This number is assigned to your protocol as soon as you create it in iProtocol so you can add to your recruitment materials prior to uploaded it in the Recruitment & Consent Tools section.
What you CAN include in recruitment materials
  • Payment. You can inform participants that you are including compensation for their time to participate, but this should not be the emphasis of the recruitment material.  The purpose of the recruitment material is to inform the person about the study so that they can contact the study team if they are interested in participating. 
  • Benefits. A benefit to an individual must be something that the researcher can guarantee.  Often, studies only have a benefit to society by the knowledge gained from the research, but there is no direct benefit to the person participating in the study.  For example, if you are offering a treatment/therapy that is recognized and known to be beneficial, this can be considered a direct benefit to the participant.  A “potential benefit,” however, is not guaranteed and therefore, should not be included on recruitment materials.
What you CANNOT include in recruitment materials
  • Misleading information. Recruitment materials should never lead a participant to believe in something that is untrue about a study.  For studies where deception is involved, the recruitment materials should not be a part of the deception. The Board recognizes that it is important in a deception study (and other similar studies) not to bias participants by providing full disclosure; however, the participants should be provided with true information that will help them to make the right decision about their participation.
  • Overemphasis of payment incentives. The title of an advertisement should never be “Free Money!” or “Easy Cash!” Instead, payment information should be clearly described at the bottom of the advertisement after the purpose of the study is described.  Such payment should not be bolded or otherwise emphasized.
  • Statements that might compel or coerce participation. A participant should never be made to feel that they must participate.  For example, instead of stating that “your participation is urgent!” state that “your participation is appreciated.”  In some cases, the relationship between the researcher and the participant can make the participant feel that they should participate.  Examples include teachers/students, principals/teachers, doctors/patients, therapists/clients, military supervisor/subordinate. To illustrate, the IRB would discourage a recruitment method where a school principal sends a letter home to parents strongly encouraging them to participate in a study as this communication may make parents feel like they are required to participate as part of school policy.  Instead, the letter should properly come from the researcher, accompanied by a signed letter from the principal stating that he or she has reviewed the study and approved its presence in the school, without endorsing parents to participate.