You see for yourself, for example, what sort of survey questions work; what induces people to answer questions honestly in an interview; what motivates participants to answer and return a questionnaire.
Motivating research participants
One of the most difficult things about carrying out human research is motivating participants to take part, and to do what they're supposed to do... properly... ie return their forms, to fill out all the questions accurately, take the correct pills at the correct time and so on. And, of course, you must do all this without 'bribing' or 'coercing' participants.
Yet, there is nothing more frustrating for a researcher when participants do not conform or adhere to the research protocol. I mean, why sign up to be in a research project and then not do what you're supposed to do?
Bottom line: non-compliance by participants can lead to your research going down the pan.
The other side of the coin
But having recently joined a research project, I am beginning to get some insight into why participants do fall by the research wayside.
I joined the digital literacy research project 5 weeks ago with the aim of learning how to make a video. I was full of enthusiasm at the beginning because I was doing something which was fun. But as time has gone on, my motivation has flagged. And as soon as I was asked to actually do some serious work ie reflect on my learning, I definitely started to lose interest.
Questioning my motives
I started to question why I would want to give myself a lot of extra work for the 'fun' of it. The learning from this project will be applicable to my work, but I am actually doing the project in my own time. Why would I want to do something related to work in my own time - idiot or what?! Why on earth did I sign up to attend 10 weeks worth of workshops? I could have learned all this by myself at home- why did I need to commit myself so extensively? And so the questions continued.
Staying on track
Suffice to say, I will continue the project because a) I am enjoying networking with the other project participants and b) because the researchers - good friends of mine - would kill me if I pulled out. Ultimately, I understand the research process and how important it is to follow through a commitment to a research project.
Retaining research participants
This time of being a research participant has not told me anything I didn't already know about recruiting and enrolling people into research projects. However, it has re-enforced the issues of retention from the point of view of the research participant, which will hopefully make me a lot more understanding as a researcher. The main things I think are important for me to remember about my own research are:
- Participants have to see the value of the research, both for themselves and the wider community;
- Participants need to be reminded that their input is really valued;
- They need to be fully informed about the research and all that it entails, including time commitments;
- They need to be 'supported' and motivated to continue in the project - how you do that without being seen to be badgering them can sometimes be problematic.
Image: 'Poopsie Pig' bickbyro