Simple question. What do you do when you need i.e. 160 participants for your online study?

I've explored this topic throughout here and on other sites (so far most practical tips had this one i.e. http://www.psychwiki.com/wiki/How_to_recruit_subjects_online%3F) but I personally think that it is really underestimated topic and one that is very difficult part of conducting research in social sciences (in my case, Psychology). Often I see very vague and general tips (not practical) or tips that are ending up with crowdsourcing platforms where you have to pay money and depending on your sample size you may have tough time (such as mTurk or Prolific). None of this is helpful if you are a MSc, BC student and funding your research in order to pay participants is simply unavailable in most cases (i.e. grant policies in my country do not allow this). So you will start searching how to achieve your estimated sample.

  • 1
    See if your department has policies that can help you? As an undergrad taking classes in the psych department, participating in two studies per semester was required to pass psych courses at the 200 level and up, unless there was a lab component. This is, of course, not an option for everybody.
    – user7123
    Jun 14, 2016 at 3:53
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    In my experience most non student academics do not collect their own data. They design the experiment, and outsource it to someone else - since its quite a time consuming process. As an alternative to collect your own data, have you considered asking, say, your advisor if he/she has data they would share with you. Your probably have to sign a waiver, I.e. you can only publish the result in collaboration with your advisor. But this is a minor inconvenience compared to actually collecting large datasets, with actually random selection
    – Repmat
    Jun 14, 2016 at 8:27
  • Thanks for helpful comments. Both option seem viable in some instances. @Repmat Generally, I've found my supervisor very helpful in this. He cannot share data as the study is novel and they yet have to be collected but he is helping with the data collection as he has different contacts than I do.
    – gofraidh
    Jun 14, 2016 at 10:30
  • @dd3 Yes. Thanks for this. Definitely an option if you'll manage to start collection before summer. I think this could be a part of data collection plan.
    – gofraidh
    Jun 14, 2016 at 10:31

1 Answer 1


Here are my tips but perhaps there is much more you could do and this is why I am writing this. First to share these tips but also to get more tips from people who struggled with something similar.

a) Sites for these purposes

You are not really sure who is the visitor (skeptic in me tells that other desperate researchers) but why not for the start. Maybe there are more of these.



Both seem reliable, actually I was able to get few people through them. The problem is that you question yourself why would you participant go through such a site?

b) Social networks

Sure but how? You can start your own group or page but not one gives a damn about it. Luckily there are people who did it already, so post it there.


https://www.facebook.com/groups/DSRecruiting/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/156001281150887/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/indian.psych.researchers/

If those links do not work you will get there by searching "Research participants", "Participants", "Participants and researchers" and such. I have also found out you could use Facebook groups where you sort of "Advertise everything", so you can look for this too.

The issue may be similar as above. In addition to that I have contacted personally all my friends to share my study, created a Facebook page and invited other people to join it.

LinkedIn: Honestly, I just had very bad luck with it or it does not work. I was doing a research once in a name of very serious and top academic institution but no one bothered to respond. So I am clueless about how other people are able to use this site for research.

Twitter: If you do not have an account, it is too late in my opinion. It is all about number of followers and I think my only luck in this case was that I had a friend with about 400 of them who was happy to share it.

c) Community based sites

Then there are those site such as Craiglist or Reddit (more?). You are looking for your participants online, why not post it there then? I have tried both and saw other people adding their research there. The turnout is questionable in my opinion and it does not work that well.

d) Your local university network.

Contact course coordinators, lecturers or other people maintaining large classes, usually you want people outside your own field. It actually seems that lot of these people are willing to help you out if you write them a good letter to share. I've contacted three major institutions in my country and asked their Erasmus coordinators to mail my study to their students. I think people with a known ac.uk email can actually have more luck with this approach.

e) Corporations, NGO, Governmental organizations

Imagine you could get your hands on one of the following: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_private_companies_in_the_United_Kingdom. The idea I've found on this page:http://www.statisticsconsultant.com/dissertation-advice/recruiting-study-participants/ (if nothing else, there is nice sample letter you can circulate) suggest contacting national companies to convince them because they control large sample pools. In my opinion you will be denied. My approach was more low level. I've tried government organization and non-government organization. The success rate is low, they are overflowed with similar request but I got some responses there too.

d) Friends

I have already mentioned that in relation to FB. I think lot of people really tried to genuinely help me, especially if you make it easy for them to share it (write the letters, provide links and such.) Problem might be that you probably do not want to ask too much of them.

This is all I got but I would be grateful to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe you've got some out of box tips. Maybe you had a success with particular platform.

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