I want to know how can I get some participants for an empirical research study I would be conducting. Does universities have systems in place to call/recruit participants or do I have to find them myself?

  • You've mentioned elsewhere that you're a Masters student moving into a Ph d program. As far as I know, universities do not make arrangements for this kind of work(recruiting from other universities/asking other Professors to collaborate). Lecturers can however, put up a notice asking students to register for an independent study under them. Alternatively you could look for online collaborators. However, this can be an extremely time-consuming thing to do. – Naresh Nov 23 '12 at 5:48
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    By participants, do you mean people to be subjects in your experiments? In that case, you have to arrange it with your advisor. – user102 Nov 23 '12 at 7:59
  • What do you mean by "participants"? If it is about a psychological experiment, try asking on cogsci.stackexchange.com. – Piotr Migdal Nov 24 '12 at 20:18

You will almost certainly have to recruit study participants yourself. As others have suggested, speak with your advisor to out whether there are any participant pools he's used in the past. If you find others that he hasn't used before it's a good idea to make sure he's OK with the pool before you dive in, so to speak.

Note that, in some fields, the pool of participants can be a significant limiting factor to the generalizability of the study results. Think very carefully about exclusionary criterion before settling on something. Note also that your IRB may require you to provide justification for exclusion/inclusion of certain populations (i.e., children, pregnant women, drug users). Try to make sure your population sample is as inclusive as possible.

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    “he's OK with the pool before you dive in” — we see what you did there! – F'x Nov 23 '12 at 12:42

I am not aware of any university run participant pools. I am aware of many departmental run and research group run participant pools. Some charities and companies also run participant pools.

It is quite possible that you will not have to recruit the participants yourself. Your supervisor and/or colleagues would be a good place to start asking about participant pools. Failing that, all universities have an institutional review board (IRB) or independent ethics committee that might be aware of participant pools in your research area.

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At the universities I've worked in North America, human-subject studies (esp. those funded by taxpayer-funded research) must be approved by a research ethics committee. The ways to recruit participants is something that must be stated and approved. Over the years, committee members have offered lots of advice about how to recruit subjects, as they have seen many projects and many experiments. A professor has to submit a project for approval, so you'd have to coordinate it with an adviser. You can probably consult with committee members before you submit the request.

The studies I've managed have recruited participants in simple and effective ways: e-mail lists, university newspapers, facebook, flyers posted on campus, etc. As others have pointed out, the means of recruitment will affect the generalizability of the study results.

I saw one project that had trouble finding enough participants via the declared means (flyers), but it was not possible (because of the ethics committee re-approval) to use another means to recruit (e.g., last-minute facebook campaign) to try to find more participants. Be careful not to lock yourself into a way that's too limited.

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