Conducting Your Research

A well-developed study design should make conducting your research relatively straightforward. Participant recruitment and screening, however, can sometimes not go as planned. Here are additional resources to aid the process.


Recruitment is the process by which individuals are solicited for participation in a research study. Recruited individuals are informed about the study, screened against predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria, and undergo a consent process.

Low or no cost methods of recruitment include word-of-mouth, email, social media, poster placement on community bulletin boards, and outreach to healthcare clinics, special interest groups, or organizations. More expensive methods include print, radio and television advertising, and direct mailing to individuals.

While recruiting for a study, it is important to keep in mind:

  • Know your target population. Where are they likely to get information?
  • Develop a system for screening potential participants and scheduling them into your study quickly. Lag time = loss of potential participants.
  • You are recruiting participants to complete your study, not just enter it. Clearly communicate and discuss expectations of study participants, so you enroll those more likely to comply with all data collection points.
  • If your study meets the criteria for human subject research, recruitment materials need to be approved by the IRB.
Web Resources:

Points to Consider about Recruitment and Retention

Patient Recruitment: Challenges, Trends, and Best Practices

Participant Screening

In some studies, interested individuals are screened prior to participation in a study to ensure they meet basic inclusion criteria predetermined in the study protocol. This often happens before informed consent, but after individuals are given general information about the study. A few best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Follow a standardized process or script for screening individuals consistently and minimizing bias.
  2. Collect only the minimal amount of data needed to determine eligibility (especially if they have not gone through the informed consent process at that point).
  3. Be sure to collect data on the number of individuals screened, and reasons for not continuing with the study (e.g. exclusion criteria, unwillingness to make the time commitment, etc). This data is often included in flow charts describing study activity, and can help identify problems with your screening process (e.g. inclusion criteria that are too restrictive, bias inherent to the process).