How to Recruit Participants for Your Study
  • 4-minute read
  • 27th June 2023

How to Recruit Participants for Your Study

Most undergraduate and graduate students are expected to undertake studies involving research. Many areas of research require the cooperation of participants as part of the data collection process.

But research isn’t limited to academic study. Manufacturers and retailers of products carry out market research to discover what consumers want.

This post focuses on academic studies, but if you’re interested in commercial market research, the United States Government provides advice for businesses.

Nine Tips for Recruiting Participants

1. Collaborate With a Professional Body, Charity, or Community Group

Find out which bodies work in the area you wish to study. Charities and community groups, in particular, often can’t afford to undertake research themselves and will gladly cooperate with yours, if it’s relevant to their needs.

2. Use Your Existing Contacts and Networks

You might be surprised by how many contacts you’ve built up in your address book. Invite them to participate and ask them to ask their contacts too. Your pool of potential participants can quickly snowball!

3. Reach Out on Social Media

Make the most of your online followers and connections. Again, ask them to take part in your study and publicize your call to participate, especially to their connections in relevant fields.

4. Invite Your Fellow Students, Colleagues, and Departmental Staff

If your research is university-based, you have a ready-made group of people who understand the importance of research and how to access willing participants and have likely been through the process themselves.

5. Engage With Colleagues and Your Own Professional Body

Work colleagues are often a diverse group of people, so reach out to them. And if you’re a member of a professional body, trade association, or similar organization, they may be able to help you with an announcement in a newsletter.

6. Use a Research Recruitment Agency

Try using a dedicated recruitment agency but remember to check for any required regulatory registrations and allow for any fees in your project costs.

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7. Crowdsource

Crowdsource via organizations such as Survey Monkey audience or Qualtrics panels. Ask colleagues or peers for other recommendations.

8. Use Listservs or Email Lists

Your university might have its own listserv, which will be a great help to you. But be aware of data protection and privacy laws relevant to your own country.

9. Always Consider Ethical Requirements

This is perhaps the most important aspect of recruiting participants for your study.

Medical research is one area where ethical considerations are very clear, but the principles apply to plenty of other areas of study too. In the United Kingdom, an ethics framework is available from United Kingdom Research and Innovation. Its general principles are useful wherever in the world you’re studying, but always check the guidance for your own location.

Your institution will have its own specific ethics guidance, and that’s the best starting point. This example from Iowa State University shows what to expect.


Your study participants are vital contributors to the outcome of your research efforts, so it’s important to take the time to consider how to recruit them. Here are our top tips again.

  • Collaborate with a professional body, charity, or community group
  • Use your existing contacts and networks.
  • Reach out on social media.
  • Invite your fellow students, colleagues, and departmental staff.
  • Engage with people where you work and in your own professional body.
  • Use a research recruitment agency.
  • Use a crowdsourcing organization.
  • Use listservs and email lists.
  • Always remember to follow the relevant ethical guidance.


What’s the most important tip to remember when I’m recruiting participants for my study?

Make sure you’ve read, understood, and complied with the relevant ethical guidance. Check out our blog on seven general guidelines for ethical research.

How can I make sure my study information sheet is clear and easy to understand so that my participants know what I’m asking of them?

Our experts are highly experienced in checking academic writing, so get in touch to see how we can help.

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