Guidelines on Recruitment and Advertisements
Recruitment of participants into a study may not begin prior to final IRB approval. The IRB must approve all recruitment methods and material (flyers, letters, brochures, e-mail advertisements, radio announcements, etc.) prior to use. Materials must also be submitted for review and re-approval if any modifications are made to them. The content of recruitment materials and the method for communicating it cannot contain misleading or exculpatory language or tactics that create undue influence.
Examples of acceptable methods of recruitment include general advertisements in print, radio or televised format, mailings using purchased lists available to the public, class announcements, e-mail listserv, or participation in health fairs. Investigators may re-contact participants from a previous study if the request for permission to re-contact for future studies was part of the consent process in the original study.
The following are examples of common recruitment methods for human research studies. All recruitment methods must be described in the protocol application.
- Use advertisements, notices, and/or media to recruit subjects. Examples include flyers posted in public settings, newspaper ads, and radio and television advertisements.
- Direct recruitment of participants unknown to the researchers. Examples include random digit dialing, approaching people in public settings, snowball sampling, use of social networks, and Craigslist.
- Provide colleagues with an IRB-approved Introduction letter describing the study. This letter would explain the purpose and procedures of the study and inform individuals how to contact the research team. Researchers would not have access to participant/patient names, addresses, or phone numbers; interested individuals must initiate contact.
- Send an IRB-approved letter to certain individuals asking for referrals of eligible participants interested in the study. The researchers may provide the referring individual with IRB-approved recruitment material for the study to give to potential participants. If interested, the participant contacts the researchers for additional information.
- Approach your own students or employees. This method raises ethical concerns because individuals may have difficulty saying no to an authority figure. For strategies to minimize undue influence, refer to the guidelines for the review of studies involving vulnerable populations.
Generally, the elements of any advertisement to recruit participants should be limited to the following:
- the name of the PI and Boise State department affiliation;
- an accurate description of the condition under study and/or the research purpose, e.g., ‘low fat vs. low carb diets for weight loss’, or ‘acculturation of Cuban immigrants’;
- in summary form, the key eligibility criteria that will be used to admit (or exclude) participants into the study, e.g., acceptable age range or unacceptable physical limitations;
- a straightforward and truthful description of the benefits, if any, to the participant from participating in the study, e.g., “free health screening”;
- if applicable, a statement that compensation is available or a statement of how much compensation is available, e.g., “Participants may receive up to $50”;
- the length of time or other commitment required of the participants; and
- the location of the research and contact information for obtaining additional information;
Advertisements cannot incorporate elements that state or imply a certainty of favorable outcome or other benefit beyond what is in the informed consent form.