Participation Problems

An unresolved problem…

So there are always a whole number of things that can go wrong while doing research. While you can plan for many of them – and have back-up plans for most of them, sometimes things are more difficult than anticipated.

In this particular case, I am having trouble finding participants.

I have two stages to my research – 1) is an online survey, that takes about 20 minutes to complete; 2) is a workshop series for feedback on the tool and resource I am developing.

I have been looking for 80 participants to take the survey, and around 30 participants for the workshops (these will be broken into about 6 workshops of 5 people each). I don’t feel like I’ve been asking for much, but after 3 months, I have only half the number of people who have taken the survey, and no one able to participate in the workshops.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. The survey is too long. I had some trouble early on with people not completing the full survey, and only completing the first page. I then made sure that everything was on the same page, and this has increased the completion rate. However, it makes the survey look a lot longer and this, I think is a problem for my target group.
  2. I haven’t been promoting the surveys enough. I did my first round of promotions through the peak bodies and associations, as well as through individual institutions and individual contacts that I already had. Since then though (in August), I have not done any follow ups.
  3. I was too vague about dates and places for workshops. I tried to get participants to elect when they were available to attend the workshops, but I think I had too many options, and they couldn’t tell how much time they would need, or when.
  4. Then I was too rushed about getting responses. I didn’t think about the fact that they were on holidays and needed time to respond. So I got nothing, except withdrawals.

Next steps:

  1. I am emailing the associations and institutions that I have already contacted, and will try to set up workshops through them. This will require a slight restructure of the workshops, but nothing too significant (not enough to require resubmitting ethics).
  2. I will keep the survey open so that people can continue completing the survey – it will be promoted alongside the workshops and hopefully that way will pick up some more respondents. I do have enough to be moving forward with, I just want to gather more perspectives on the questions before I write everything up.

So that is how I am dealing with this road bump. This has been bugging me for a long time, and although it seems like a small thing, I really wasn’t sure what the best approach was. I’m not certain that this will work, but at least I am moving forward again.

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