Problem Solving: HELP! I Can’t Find Research Participants!

Indeed, gathering participants for a research project is one of the most difficult parts of conducting a study, and it’s one of the most difficult parts of research in psychology. Whether you’re a freshman, a Ph.D. candidate or even a researcher in your field, you’re going to be facing issues gathering participants. It comes with a territory, and the struggle is real. And familiar. Familiar enough that I winced just typing that. Hopefully, by the end of this blog, you’ll have a fix for your problem – and rest assured, I won’t ask you to turn it off and back on again.

Tip #1: Gather university students for your sample.
I know, I know. You’ve probably already asked your friends to participate, and they’ve probably said no, unless you bribed them with mac ‘n’ cheese bites (YOU THOUGHT I WAS KIDDING). But ask around. If you know anyone in sports, ask them to spread it there. Make an email list of professors teaching big classes in each major and ask them to have their students participate. See if you can get help from current graduate students who already know your struggles. Remember, there are always more students to persuade.

Tip #2: Use your resources.
Reach out to the community surrounding the school – and, if you’re not from around Melbourne, try spreading the word throughout your hometown (provided, of course, that participants may take part online – i.e., surveys). You never know how many doors can be opened by discussing your work with a few people. At this school, lots of people will be willing to help you spread the word around.

Tip #3: Use your professors.
Oftentimes, professors are willing to help you out regarding low enrollment in your studies. This is especially true if your research has merit, so put your best foot forward with that hypothesis proposal!

Tip #4: Get your experiment ready to test at the beginning of the semester – or, preferably, at the beginning of the year.
That way, people won’t be overwhelmed with requests to take part in studies. If you set your research on people at the beginning of the year, you’ll have the added bonus of a new crop of freshmen who won’t be tired of being test subjects quite yet.

Tip #5: If all else fails, look into other options.
The absolute smallest amount of subjects you should ever have is 30, which is the amount needed to conduct a t-test in SPSS. This is a basic analysis that will tell you a lot; however, more participants means more analyses that you may conduct. So, you have to decide whether or not making changes to your methodology is necessary or worth it. You can always find a creative solution to gather more subjects, though (even if it doesn’t seem like a solution will come to you)!

From one researcher to another, good luck. And may the odds be ever in your favor!  

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