Tips for a successful participant recruitment 

This page is based on the Master's thesis by Anam Sohail. For any questions, please contact Krishna.

  1. While extrinsic motivators (like monetary reward) can improve participants' response rate, do try to instill intrinsic motivation in your participants. Instrinsic motivators should be the main recruitment front, with extrinsic motivators playing a peripheral role. This is because intrinsic motivation will improve the participant's involvement and the correctness of her task in the study. You can do this by:
    • telling prospective participants that their contribution matters
    • incorporating storytelling, i.e., tell them about your research, the future you envision and how they can be a part of it
  2. Avoid or minimize extrinsic motivators, e.g., monetary incentives. If you must use them (e.g., because your inclusion criteria is rather specific), then consider employing "amount surprises" [3] or give the incentives to the user before the study [4] to improve participants' response rate. 
    1. For surveys, lottery draws are shown to improve participants' response rate [5].
    2. Extrinsic motivators can also serve as a follow-up recruitment technique. E.g., if you want to do a follow-up interview with a participant, offering them a monetary reward at the end of their initial study will improve the participant's response rate. 
  3. Be honest about:
    • The tasks that the participants will have to do in the user study. (E.g., is the task going to fatigue the participant?)
    • The time it will take to complete the user study. Be conservative with the estimate of the study duration.
  4. Use formal language in online studies to improve participant attention [1].
  5. Consider the task design:
    • Design tasks to help participants achieve the state of "Flow"
    • Characteristics of such a task [2]:
      • Concrete goals with manageable rules
      • Balance user skill and task difficulty
      • Provide feedback
      • Minimize distractions
    • Better to have smaller tasks
    • Make tasks more fun
      • Be careful about using gamification techniques, e.g., adding achievements and points, as it might extrinsically motivate participants and might compromise the ecological validity of the research.  



[1] August, T., & Reinecke, K. 2019. Pay Attention, Please: Formal Language Improves Attention in Volunteer and Paid Online Experiments. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (p. 248). ACM.

[2] Czikszentmihalyi, M. 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row.

[3] Fiore, A., Cheshire, C., Taylor, L., Mendelsohn, G. 2014. Incentives to Participate in Online Research: An Experimental Examination of Surprise Incentives.

4] Church, A. 1993. Estimating the Effect of Incentives on Mail Survey Response Rates: A Meta-Analysis. Public Opinion Quarterly 57(1), 62.

5] Bosnjak, M., Tuten, T. 2006. Classifying Response Behaviors in Web-based Surveys. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 6(3), 0-0.

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