The Search for Participants

Since May of 2018 I have been involved in the Healthy Beginnings Project, a group of professionals and students whose work focuses on improving child outcomes, especially of children whose mothers are incarcerated. With this focus in mind and practice, Healthy Beginnings team members have established and been involved in various projects. I have been particularly focused on our current study on the William & Mary campus. In the study, mothers and their children ages four to six answer questions about their family and home environment, and participate in a discussion task while observed by research assistants. As a research assistant, I am prepared to run participants through the study. However, preparedness is not enough; one needs participants to run a study!

In the search for participants, we enlist non-scientific research. This includes, but is not limited to, internet searches of local family-centered institutions, team member discussions, walks and bike rides around the Williamsburg area in search of public posting boards, and calls and emails to local organizations. The participant recruitment process is a team effort that requires a link between preparedness and running participants: creativity.

Thanks to the Office of the Vice Provost I was able to fund the printing of flyers born from creativity. Before graduating from William & Mary, a team member designed a colorful, eye-catching flyer that we continue to use in our recruitment process. By distributing this flyer, we have gained many participants for our study. Also, to be effective in our recruitment process, we devise plans for the distribution of these flyers to the greater Williamsburg area. I have gone on many walks, bike trips, and car rides with the hopes that some flyers would reach the interest of potential participants. I never imagined that a study run in two rooms of the Child and Family Studies Center would connect me in understanding of the geography of the greater Williamsburg area! There is great beauty in the fact that research can unexpectedly take you outside of the physical place in which it occurs.
Healthy Beginnings Study Flyer

I often schedule participants and respond to emails or Tribe Responses interest form submissions for our study. As a scheduler, I am one of the first project members to see the extent of our success in recruiting participants through our flyer distributions. Sometimes it can be discouraging to deliver flyers to a location and never see any response to them, especially if we believed our flyers would foster great interest in a specific place. However, there are also moments after a flyer distribution where I see waves of email notifications regarding participant interest. These moments assure me that a lack of response to our flyers in one location just calls us to continue the distribution of our flyers elsewhere.

We are not certain of the effects of distribution locations on the success of our flyers; however, we have been able to create flyer distribution plans that prioritize distribution to institutions similar to those with which we have had success. As we have progressed in our recruitment plans, we realized that flyer distribution is successful, though never at a one hundred or even a fifty percent success rate. Therefore, I am thankful for Vice Provost funding for allowing us to distribute more flyers so we can continue to work toward our goal of running 150 participants. With flyers and team efforts that creatively carry out flyer distribution plans, I am now prepared to not only to run participants, but to take on more waves of emails!