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Discussing “Quality” in Qualitative Studies: What Makes a Good Participant?

Discussing “Quality” in Qualitative Studies: What Makes a Good Participant?

3  mins 3 mins
By MIS Group - 13/06/2024

Associating the terms “participants” and “quality” in qualitative research might seem obvious, but this critically important aspect of recruitment is often taken for granted. To help ensure that quality in your recruitment is not overlooked, the following article aims to explore the key characteristics that define a “good” participant.

Identifying the Right Profile

From the outset, it is essential to determine the “Who”: who are the participants we aim to interview? Clearly defining characteristics and criteria for the participant profile makes it easier for recruiters to evaluate the relevance of potential participants. This also aids in suggesting appropriate timing and recruitment methods, ultimately leading to a more accurate and relevant recruitment process.

Two Crucial Elements:
  • Common Criteria: These are universal criteria that apply to every recruited group or community, requiring a balanced distribution (e.g. age, socio-economic status, gender).
  • Specific Criteria: These criteria form the core of the study and differ from one group to another. The commissioning company must provide all necessary criteria to help recruiters identify the most suitable targets (e.g. Group 1: breakfast chocolate croissant consumers, Group 2: lunch chocolate croissant consumers, Group 3: croissant consumers etc).

There can often be a significant gap between “expected” profiles and reality. Both clients and recruiters must stay vigilant to avoid disappointment. Understanding the incidence rate and considering the geographic area and its specifics are ways to bridge this gap. Rather than viewing discrepancies as problems, they should be seen as insights.

Effective Field Monitoring
“Monitoring” throughout the recruitment process is crucial to ensure fieldwork success and client satisfaction, even after the research has taken place. Monitoring includes:
  • Reviewing previous recruitments conducted by the client to avoid selecting respondents who have already participated in other groups – in particular, looking out for people who participate in too many studies, also known as research “junkies” (these individuals can negatively impact the authenticity of your results). Fear of these “junkie” profiles is common among researchers and will be addressed in another article.
  • Maintaining close communication with participants once their profiles are confirmed. Being clear and ensuring that participants receive accurate information fosters a trustful environment. While this might seem straightforward, these best practices are often neglected, leading to issues such as participants not showing up, lacking commitment or showing disinterest.

The Right Attitude

Recruiters must ensure that the participants they select have the right attitude for the topic at hand. Participants should be committed and attentive, exhibit creativity and curiosity and be motivated by the issues being addressed. Although these qualities can be challenging to define, they are essential for research quality. Constructive feedback from the moderator or coordinator is another useful way to maintain high standards for each project while also aligning expectations of what is needed for the recruitment process.

By focusing on these elements—defining the right profile, effective field monitoring, and ensuring the right attitude—researchers can significantly enhance the quality of their qualitative studies, leading to more insightful and successful outcomes.

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