Participant Recruitment


It is important to recognize that participant recruitment to serve as research subjects is NOT "advertisement."  The research study essentially starts at the point where the participant decides to enroll. Therefore, it is crucial that the recruitment device used to communicate with the participant provides just enough information about the research and not sound like marketing.  The participants may be recruited through social media, posting fliers, word of mouth, via email, via telephone, etc.  But it is crucial that the same basic idea behind ethical recruitment of participants is followed regardless of the mode of correspondence.  The IRB needs to be clearly briefed on how the researchers plan to conduct their recruitment with proper scripts.  

General Guidelines

MTSU IRB encourages the researchers to initially complete the informed consent script before the recruitment device is developed.  The informed consent is not a document but an important conversation between the researcher and the volunteer.  Therefore, participant recruitment is a preview of the research with disclosure of important research-related information that participants need to know before they can make a decision.  Therefore, it is strictly an abbreviated precursor of the informed consent.  The IRB also encourages the researchers to use the recruitment template shown in the FORMS section to develop the recruitment tool regardless they plan to post fliers or not.  The following information must be shown in the recruitment unless any exceptions are permitted by the IRB.  

  1. The recruitment tool must specifically state, preferably in a larger font, that the researchers seek volunteers for a research study.
  2. Study title and otherIRB details, such as the date of expiration.
    1. Please be aware that providing personal cell phone numbers or personal email IDs on a flyer or other "free for all" recruitment tool would compromise your confidentiality and privacy.  MTSU advices its students to use MTSU telephone numbers and email IDs if possible.  
  3. Contact information for the PI (and the faculty advisor if the PI is a student).
  4. Study description to clearly explain what will be required of the participants
  5. Target population - elaborate on the inclusion/exclusion criteria on what the researchers are looking in an ideal participant.  This way, the participants not eligible for the study can be screened and they would not unnecessarily waste their time.
  6. Additional information - any compensation to be provided for participation, potential risks, specific disclosures of the study that the participant needs to know, additional materials or documents that the participants need to bring or any information that they must be aware of.


Although all of these elements are mandatory to qualify for an IRB-approved recruitment tool, the MTSU IRB also recognizes that certain types of research may not be conducted if the recruitment requirement is followed as described above.  For instance, research projects done over the telephone to conduct research with minimal risk such as polling, or studies that involve in person simple questions to assess or evaluate products without registering participant data.  In cases similar to the ones mentioned above, it is practically impossible to conduct recruitment with all the above conditions. The researchers are recommended to provide a paper recruitment tool for reference, but will be allowed on request to communicate verbally with the most essential information of the propsed study.  Therefore, the approval of the recruitment tool is reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis.  Regardless of the recruitment method, the researchers have to clearly describe the mode of recruitment with a correspondence script that accurately descibes the one to be used in the actual study.  


Additional Information

  • All non-verbal recruitment tools, such as flyers/posters, emails, webpostings and etc., must contain the protocol title, IRB ID, name of the PI (and faculty advisor if appliable) and dates of approval/expiration (once issued by the IRB)
  • Flyer Template - Use this for making a flyer/poster with or without tear sheets.  The template also contains instruction for what information is needed for getting IRB approval.  
  • Online/Email Template - Use this for inviting participants through an online script or by initiating email recruitment. Ensure the subject line for the email is clear and is not misleading.  Create the email in its final form before submiting the script to IRB for a review.  Any links to online surveys or other actions you need the participants to take must be at the bottom of the email.  Compensation information must not be presented to unfairly force the participant to enroll
  • Telephone Recruitment - Submit a text that complies with the general outline of the flyer or email templates.  The IRB recognizes that the time is of the essense and approval will be granted as long as the most crucial parts of the reasearch are adequately disclosed.  Some of the text mandated as requirement for other recruitment tools above may be waived in the interest of the time as long as the investigator makes a good faith attempt to make a full disclosure.
  • Word of Mouth - Provide a transcript to cover topics from the flyer or email templates.  Refer to the Telephone Recruitment tool above. 

Recruiting Participants through Amazon Mechanical Turk

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