Recruiting Participants Online


Of all the elements of research, participant recruitment is by far my least favorite. I feel like a desperate bloody saleswoman, going around begging anyone I can get in contact with to do me a favor.  The thought makes me pull the picture face. Picture face sounds like “Nuh-Uh-hhh-hhffmm”.

So, I learned an important lesson this year. Online studies are not easier than lab-based studies. For some reason, I thought they would be. Last year I had to try and convince ~30 people to come and sit in a lab for about an hour and it was a nightmare. Constant no shows, really difficult to convince people to do it, it took a month or two.

But I thought, 130 participants online would be a piece of cake. I mean there’s an estimated 3.2 billion internet users world-wide, if 10% of them smoked that would be a potential participant pool of 320,000,000. After a month I have a grand total of 78.

But that’s not the problem. The problem is that out of 78 who have agreed to participate, only ~30 have started the survey and only 3 have completed it. The attrition is shocking.

The most reliable source of recruitment has been the University’s own SONA system. However I have found some other good recruitment sources I would like to share;

  1. is amazing. It’s a site where completing other people’s online studies moves your own up the ranking, and people are motivated to complete your study to move their own up the ranking. Of course it’s of a limited sample representativeness and there’s a limit to how many participants you can recruit due to the number of users the website currently has. But yes, five stars. Definitely one where its use will grow with users.
  2. Classifields- all of them. Literally all of them. I have posted on gumtree, fridayads, craigslist, reddit, various free online and local classifields and free-ads. Usually ending up in the community>volunteer section, its a great way to expand outside of the usual student population page.
  3. Social Media. The most numerically effective way of recruitment has actually just been to directly ask (via DM or PM) people on my friends/follow list if they’d like to participate or could send over the link to one friend who does smoke and might do.

But I think there’s one valuable thing I can share with you in hindsight. If you are a first year university student, start doing this now, because you will be oh so fucking grateful when you come to do your 2nd or 3rd year projects or your Masters/PhD. Create a fucking mailing list. I’m not sure how, you’ll have to be interesting, go to something interesting, but constantly collect the emails of people you meet/interact with somewhere safe so that when you need participants for your research you’ve got a list to call on. I mean, if it’s anything like facebook you’ll probably get ignored by most of them, but that’s all the more reason to get as many as you physically can.


Garbage In, Garbage Out.


“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.”

-Dhammapada, Chapter One, Twin Verses.

When I debate with myself on what to do with my day, I must always remember this; If I want to achieve something great, it begins and ends with my own cognitions.


Super Organised & Productive.


So I have done what I hoped to do, which is turn my anxieties into productive energies, and I am on fire if I may say so myself.

Have re-connected with the to-do app Wunderlist. Bloody life-saver. I forgot that the best way to make me do something is to put it on a To-Do list. There’s something about ticking it off that’s reward enough to motivate me to do it. I can literally list all the steps required to be my ‘ideal self’ and that simple act increases the likelihood that I will do these acts by at least 200%.

I strongly recommend organizing your to-do lists into core values so you can check that you are not focusing all energy in one area whilst ignoring other important ones. Its really easy to loose perspective and even forget what is important to you.

Thanks to my lists, I handed in three university assignments yesterday and blitzed the house (including doing the things I usually put off like changing the bedsheets and taking out the rubbish). Today I have created a website to showcase my art . This in itself spurred three further future projects; online print store, online drawing courses & online lifestyle courses.

I love it. It is like a snowball effect; the more I do the more I want to do.

^Above image is one of my first ventures into digital art last year. More should follow.