Participant Recruitment- Twitter came to my Rescue

The first year and half of my PhD was spent completing taught modules, preparing leaflets for recruitment, interview questions, applying/ waiting for ethical approval. I worked on every aspect of managing power dynamics within interviews, read everything I could about interviewing techniques. Basically, planning every minute aspect of my data collection. I was constantly worried whether I would manage to get the requisite number of participants for my study. Whether any disabled teacher would be forthcoming to be part of my study. I had been warned by many fellow PGRs regarding recruitment hurdles. I had read many accounts of delays in recruitment, or participants dropping out. With Covid restrictions, data collection needed to be conducted online. This caused me a lot of anxiety, I needed to replan my data collection strategy. I decided to recruit participants via twitter, send emails to gate keepers. I recreated all information leaflets online using Qualtrics.

When I finally got the go ahead to start recruitment. I posted the Call for participants on Twitter, 28th May 2021 at 12.27 pm. The tweet included Qualtrics links for information leaflets. I was so nervous whether the call for participants will generate enough interest. I kept gate-keeper emails ready but decided I would wait a couple of days to check the response on Twitter. I felt elated that the Call for participants was finally out. I anxiously waited, nervous, excited, elated, apprehensive, butterflies in tummy…had so many mixed emotions! By 12.57 pm my tweet was getting a lot of attention and retweets, my Supervisor Neil Hall, loads of UoB academics, fellow PGRS had retweeted. I was very excited that couple of people have viewed the participation leaflet on Qualtrics, which looked promising. I felt grateful, humbled, but honestly relieved. Couldn’t help checking twitter feed every couple of minutes.  Every time I checked, more people had seen the tweet, retweeted, commented, and even sent me DMs. I just couldn’t believe it!

By 5pm my friend Sharon Smith had passed on my call for participants to few of her contacts. I am so grateful to her.  By 6.30 pm, I was in a daze. I was overwhelmed. Response on twitter, retweets, and DMs were so encouraging. Assured me, my study is important, is of consequence. Got DMs from people in Ireland, Canada, India, and Saudi, it’s amazing how fast social media works. By 7.57 pm I already had a prospective participant! They had completed the participation leaflet. The feeling of exhilaration, I never expected I would get a prospective participant within few hours of the call going out. But the highlight of that day came at 8.40pm, the TOM SHAKESPEARE retweeted my call for participants. I mean I just could not believe it!!! Again, all credit to Sharon who had passed on my Call for participants to him. This was beyond imagination. I was shaking as I read my Twitter feed. I literally screamed; my family looked at me as if I had completely lost it. By 8.49 pm another prospective participant completed the participation leaflet. I had two prospective participants. What a day it had been.  My online recruitment strategy was a complete success, I recruited requisite number of eight participants, without having to send emails to gatekeepers. I held initial zoom meetings with every prospective participant to answer their questions, explain the process of data collection and importantly to create a rapport. I began interview on June 16th, 2021. I was surprised by the enthusiasm and appreciation for my research topic. I received many encouraging messages on twitter. Prospective participants shared they were excited to be part of my research. They shared they were glad to participate and contribute because they strongly believed in the topic. I felt humbled at the same time somewhat validated. Every prospective participant I spoke with did end up eventually participating in my study. None of the participants opted to drop out from the study. I am very grateful to each of them, their belief in me and my study. In my next blog I will share my interviewing experience.

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