Recruiting Research Participants
All communications to members of the University community or the wider public that ask for volunteers for research participation must include the following information:
- The name of the researcher or student, and her/his status and affiliation (e.g. Faculty) within the University.
- The University of Wolverhampton logo
- The University email address and phone number of the researcher or student (personal e-mail addresses or telephone numbers should not be used)
- In the case of student projects (including those of PGR students), the name and contact details of the supervisor of the research.
- A statement that the individual(s) named may be contacted for further information about the project before a respondent makes a decision about taking part.
- A statement that the research has been approved by the relevant Ethics Committee.
Posters, Leaflets, Emails & Use of Social Media for Participant Recruitment
Recruitment of participants should be undertaken in such a way that participation is truly voluntary and there is no coercion, either explicit or implicit. Ideally individuals should be able to take a positive step to participate rather than have the discomfort of declining a direct approach. The use of indirect approaches rather than face to face individual requests to potential volunteers is generally preferred, although it is also understood that the nature of the research may not lend itself to indirect approaches. When recruitment is to take place ‘door-to-door’, it is expected that potential participants are made aware of the study in advance. Posters and leaflets may be used to recruit participants.
The material can fall into several categories:
- Posters displayed within the University
- Posters displayed in other institutions (although recruitment on NHS premises may sometimes require NHS REC approval, and usually R&D Office approval from the relevant NHS Trust)
- Advertisements in newspapers, magazines etc.
- Internet adverts for internet surveys
Care should be taken when writing text to consider the nature of the target group, and ensuring that appropriate terminology is used. This is especially important for material likely to be seen by vulnerable groups, and especially for advertisements that are to be published in large circulation magazines etc.
Characteristics of a good poster, leaflet or advert
The material should be visually attractive with a short clear heading in the form of an invitation and may include illustrations. Sufficient information should be given for potential participants to know roughly what is involved. When there are a large number of inclusion/exclusion criteria it is sufficient to state any generalisable criteria within the poster and include more specific details in the Information Sheet so as not to confuse or put off potential participants. Adequate information for making contact should be given.
- A copy of the poster must be submitted with the application for ethical approval.
- You must obtain the relevant permission for posters to be displayed in other institutions.
Circular emails should meet with all requirements in guidelines for posters. Additionally, they should be short; the subject box should contain a short description of the study.
Use of electronic mailing lists
All staff and student projects that propose the use of block emails to send unsolicited requests for recruitment to research projects or for participation in research such as online questionnaire completion are subject to full ethical review by the relevant ethics committee. Mailings should not be sent until ethical approval has been received.
Applications for ethical approval must provide information about the proposed use of email lists, whether existing or created specifically for the project. Later use of lists not envisaged in the application must be notified to the Faculty Ethics Committee.
- The ‘all-staff’ and ‘all-students’ mailing lists maintained by the University cannotbe used to distribute recruitment material. Similarly the ‘Staff Departmental Groups’ and ‘Student Departmental Groups’ on the global address list should not be used. This is the case for both student and staff research.
- Distribution lists maintained by Departments and Faculties may only be used to recruit research participants with the permission of the authority (e.g. Head of Department) responsible for use of the list, or her/his authorised deputy. In such cases, it must be clear to the recipient which distribution list is being used.
- All recruitment emails should include a statement to indicate that use of the mailing list to recruit participants has received ethical approval (including the name of the relevant committee).
- Virtual mailing lists and email facilities in the VLE, which allow contact with specific groups of students, and are accessible to academic and administrative staff, may only be used to recruit research participants when the researcher has demonstrated through the application for ethical approval that participation would be beneficial to students, for example by giving them experience of research methods in their discipline. Any use of such lists must be made directly by a member of academic staff, and not delegated to other staff or to students. It must be clear from the email which group of students is being circulated, and why.
- E-mail requests for research participation should not disclose to participants (e.g. in the message header) the individual identities of other recipients. (Enter emails into the ‘Bcc’ field rather than the ‘To’ field).
Online recruitment methods
Information to be distributed via methods such as Twitter, Facebook or other social media should (within the restrictions of the medium) meet with all requirements in guidelines for posters. The text of such posts or tweets should be submitted for approval along with that for traditional media.
Where applicable, the subject box should contain a short description of the study, and the post should start with the sentence:
‘Information regarding recruitment of volunteers for study [Title]. This project contributes to University of Wolverhampton’s role in conducting research, and teaching research methods. You are under no obligation to reply to this post, however if you choose to, participation in this research is voluntary and you may withdraw at any time.'
Where length restrictions do not allow full details to be provided, a link should be included to an appropriate website, email address or other point of contact where further details can be obtained.
University of Wolverhampton Staff engaged in MPhil/PhD research
If a member of staff leaves the University of Wolverhampton while engaged in MPhil/PhD research, they must reapply to their Ethics Committee for the continuation of their research. Where student data is being used as part of the research the continued access and utilisation of the data must be expressly approved by the Academic Registrar after discussion with the Dean of Faculty and then approved by the Ethics Committee. This is true even if the member of staff transfers their studies, based on this data, to another HEI. And the same process of renewal of permissions will also apply to data relating to the wider university experience, in respect to surveys conducted on staff (academic or otherwise), and engagements with resources / learning spaces provisions.