Recently I was hired as an assistant market researcher for a PhD project relating to an online commercial website. My task was to conduct the research and also recruit the participants. The research took each person who volunteered approximately around 25 minutes. I would make them surf the website for a fixed amount of time and then answer a questionnaire. I learnt a lot from the experience. Here are a few memorable occurrences from the research.
There was one guy whom I approached for the research in the computer labs who gave me a long lecture on how the length of the research was too long and that it would never work out. He said that if the research had been for 10 or less minutes he would have taken part in it. He told me that he himself was an MSc Marketing student and that in his experience questionnaires should always be very short. I realized that it was no use trying to recruit the guy and left him alone. A few days later I had forgotten his face (I talk to a lot of people) and asked him again to take part in the research. He told me that he had already said no. Instantly I recognized his face and left.
A few days later I asked him again (again forgetting his face!). The poor guy sighed and said that because I had asked him the question thrice he would be a participant.
Half an hour later though he surprised me by shaking my hand and telling me that he wanted to take back what he had told me in our first meeting. He was impressed by the structure and careful technique used in the questionnaire and that it had actually helped him learn something new relevant to his studies!
I also managed to get a few lecturers to take part in the research. One of them was my Econometrics lecturer. Another lecturer asked me to keep him anonymous. Unfortunately he ended up winning a pashmina from the prize draw that was held after the research for all the participants!
The most interesting participant was a lecturer from Canada. When I knocked on her door she was actually quite eager to be a volunteer! If only the world had more people like her. She gave me a lot of useful EXTRA feedback about the online website that actually changed the way I will ever look at a website that is selling some goods.
If you ever want to conduct a research for which you need to obtain participants here are some useful tips. Keep an incentive for the people to get involved. Free lollipops or lucky draws are my personal favourites. Always be friendly when approaching participants and explain to them carefully what is required of them. Also not everyone is induced by promise of prizes and money. Such people can be made to change their mind by explaining to them the importance of the research and how much their involvement would be appreciated. While some people are attracted by material gains others are taken by humanitarian and rationale reasoning. The latter usually also prove to be the most focussed and reliable respondents.