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General rules for screening participants

The recruitment rules in this section apply to all market and social research projects irrespective of whether they are online, face-to-face groups, etc.

Excluding potential participants due to previous participation in research

Clients may have their own rules on taking participants who have taken part in market or social research previously so make sure that you know your clients’ repeat or previous attendance criteria. Some clients may not want participants who have attended a qualitative research event in the preceding six months, or in the previous year, or have ever done research on the same subject. However, it is always worth checking if clients can relax their rules if the type of research being undertaken is different from that previously undertaken or if you are struggling with recruitment, especially with hard to reach participants. For instance if you find a participant who has a specific make and model of a new car the client may not be concerned that they did an online session on supermarkets six months ago. Always be up front and honest with your client about this and ask them if they are happy for you to recruit using such assumptions.

You are allowed to keep records of participants (with participant consent) who attended previous research sessions including who the client was and the subject areas being researched. This is subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018.

All participants should be unknown to each other unless the client has specified otherwise. Clients may specify if they require you to recruit members of a family or friendship pairs. Snowballing, where a recruited participant suggests others who might be eligible, is not usually allowed by clients except in specific circumstances. Exceptions to this might be recruiting in a specific sector e.g. Heads of Departments in schools where a participant might contact a local networking group on the recruiter’s behalf, or for a minority sport or interest. There may be situations sometimes where you are struggling to find participants but feel you can get them if it is snowballed. If this is the case always check with the client first that they are happy for you to proceed on this basis.

Excluding potential participants due to occupation

Some clients have participant recruitment policies which do not allow participants to be recruited (or their close friends or members of their immediate family) who work in sectors, industries and/or competing businesses related to the subject being researched. In such cases, at the beginning of screening such participants must be identified and removed from any recruitment exercises. The reason for these exclusions is that clients want to be sure that opinions are unlikely to be biased by participants who either know research or are familiar with a particular industry or business being researched. Research sessions may reveal prototype products so it is especially important that you don’t recruit anyone who works for a competitor to an end client.