Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Are we asking the right question?

Posted by Bronia Arnott

Recently I wrote about using twitter to recruit participants for a research study and how others said it couldn't be done. But were they asking the right question? Should they be asking if it SHOULD be done?

When I tweet to my followers on twitter I am sending information out to people who are like minded individuals. They probably follow me because they share some of my interests and probably because they like me have been caught up in the fallout from the weapon of mass distraction that is the Internet. So are these the kind of people I should be trying to recruit for a research study? A large proportion of them have a PhD and many work in academia (and I know how strange academics can be!). Even if they don't fall into those categories they tend to be those interested in mental or physical health, quite well educated, or my friends - which might not be very inclusive!

Reduce, reuse, retweet
But before I shoot down my research paper with the biased sample bullet let's take the finger off the trigger for a moment. Of course those things are true of my followers, but what about the followers of those who re-tweeted (RT'd) my requests for participants? Their followers may be more diverse than my own - especially those such as local radio stations who kindly RT'd. So, in theory, the further the RT was RT'd the more likely I was reaching people who were not that similar to me.

Taking another step back from the big red button, what kind of participants did I want to recruit? Well I was actually looking for adults of working age who regularly commute and own a smartphone – so if twitter users tend to be adults of working age who regularly commute and own a smartphone then perhaps that isn’t a problem?

However, while most twitterers are lovely (and recruiting this way allowed me to meet some of them who I may not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet) they are clearly different in many ways to those who don’t use twitter. Therefore while I do think people can and should recruit via twitter I don't think it should be the only method of recruitment. Unless you want to measure the effect of the weapon of mass destruction that is the Internet, then go ahead.

But enough about what I think, what are your thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment