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5 Ways to Get More Participants for Your Research Study on Honeybee

Honeybee Team

September 21, 2020

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Hey researchers – this one’s for you. To all the professors, graduate students, recruitment coordinators, research managers, lab assistants, we’re sharing insights on Honeybee participants to up your game for participant recruitment this academic year. 



What we learned through our own research on how you can recruit more effectively


Over the last year, we’ve been researching how to help you better recruit participants for your research studies. In an unpaid survey listed on the Honeybee marketplace, we received 120 responses from Honeybee participants to learn what incentivizes participants to join studies and what factors they considered before making that important decision to participate. We looked for trends by segmenting our data by demographics and observed how it relates to the different types of research fields.


Like in all research, there are always limitations to this data. While surveys often reflect what people think they would do when making a decision or taking an action, they are not always representative of what is true when they are faced with the choice (in this case, joining a research study).


We listed 20 different research topics to be ranked, Honeybee participants are most interested in studies on psychology, food and drink, general health, and art & music. So, keep in mind what participants are interested in to capture their attention through curiosity and discovery.


1. Leverage immediate money incentive


It doesn’t come as a surprise that across the board, participants reported that cash incentives were the primary motivators to join research studies, more so than other reward types which included a sense of contribution to the advancements of research.


This might be obvious to most already, but wherever possible, list a guaranteed payout, rather than a raffle. We know research ethics protocols and budgets can be limiting. But if the limitation has a budget, consider breaking down a bigger raffle to smaller guaranteed cash incentives. For example, instead of $100 raffle for 40-person survey, consider $2.50 cash per person which equates to the same amount, as long as research ethics allows.


2. Change the messaging in your study listing based on age


What’s interesting is that participant considerations change across different age groups. Participants 45 years old and older are significantly more concerned about having a sense of contribution to society and helping research make significant advancements than younger people. On the other hand, the younger participants are, the more important money and other rewards become as a motivating factor to join research studies.


You could consider creating more tailored study listing content that speaks to the age demographic you’re targeting. For example, in middle-aged to older adult segments, speak to their desire to contribute and their impact in the world of research by joining your study.


If you’re recruiting by age broadly (ie. 18 – 80 years old), another strategy might be to segment your group into different cohorts, and decide how many you want to recruit in each cohort, and create different listings with different images and titles tailored for each age cohort. An additional benefit to this strategy is that by pre-emptively deciding how many people you need for each age segment, you know that your research outcomes will better represent people of all ages.


3. Provide educational tools where possible to help people stay connected to research


A breakdown of participant motivation based on employment status revealed that students considered research advancement an important motivation for joining studies compared to unemployed and employed groups. So why is this the case? Although, there still needs to be further investigation into this; perhaps, without the continuous exposure to learning at school, people become disconnected to the research that makes it all possible.


What we do know is, 90% of participants want to know study results, but only 9% receive study results and 68% of participants said they would never join a study again if they didn’t get access to results. Participants don’t want to be left out in the dark when they take an active step in joining a study.


A great way to stay connected with participants is to leverage our community blog section allows you to submit blog posts about research news, interesting discoveries in your field, result summaries, and your current and upcoming research investigations. Beyond readership, participants can leave comments, ask questions and start discussions on research topics they’re interested in.


4. Use great images to capture attention & switch them up once in a while


They say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. As many of you behavioural researchers and psychologists already know, using an image to convey message can be very effective and it continues to hold true to be one of the most important aspects of your study listing. Here’s why:


  • Interviews with 15 users indicated that images are the first thing they see when they look at a study, before even reading the text or title so use a high quality image. For young adults, use bright pops of colour to appeal to Millennials and Gen-Z and images that have shock value, especially if your topic is related to some of the core values this demographic cares about, including the environment, health, and money. Meanwhile, for older adults, use photos that could resonate with a hobbie related to your study, such as cognitive study can show two people at a chessboard. Believe it or not, they don’t actually want to see pictures of just other older adults, but are looking to picture themselves in a scenario where they are, having a good time, interacting and providing value with their time.
  • Quality images make your study look more reputable. Users reported that study images with a lot of text or look like your bulletin board ad print out are considered “sketchy” and give a poor browsing experience so avoid any text in your image at all; because our browsing screen is so dynamic, in different image dimensions, text gets cut off anyway
  • Participants imagine themselves in the shoes of the people they see in the image. So consider cycling in images of people with different racial or cultural backgrounds every once in a while to ensure you get a diverse participant pool

Most importantly, switch up your image once in a while, to help refresh the Honeybee Search page. Different images can resonate with different people. We shuffle research studies every Sunday night, to give each study a chance at the top of our Search page, so take advantage of this, use a new image and get ready for your next wave of participants!


5. Write a clear, short title


We’ve been surprised at the variation of titles that have been used in all the studies coming into Honeybee. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  • People only read the first 3-5 words in your study title so capture everything important in there.
  • “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein. Jargon makes people disinterested. Use simple terms to help them know what your study is about. 

For example, “A paid research study to evaluate cognitive performance with a game that requires thinking…” is NOT a good study title because it’s too long and full of jargon. Participants can already filter by paid studies and can see the compensation right in the listing, instead make use of these five words to convey what your study is about in simple terms, like “Chess Game Study on Brain Health”.


We’re here to help


Honeybee’s mission beyond helping you recruit for this one study, is to keep re-engaging participants for different research studies so they can continue to interactively learn about science, health and technology – giving you more diverse group of participants to recruit from for faster recruitment, and better outcomes.


We’re here for you and we’re re-envisioning how human-based studies can be conducted. So you can focus being the researcher and the experts in your field, while we get creative on how we are going to tackle all your recruitment and management problems one by one. Don't hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any questions.

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Written by
Honeybee Team

Honeybee's community marketplace connects researchers and the community so we can build a healthier and happier community together by participating in research studies.


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