Can I use social media to recruit research participants or post surveys?

Ross Woods, 2021, '22

Are simply calling for respondents?

Calling for respondents is not a problem; it is the same as a notice on a noticeboard. You'll describe your research population (e.g. Teachers under thirty years of age with at least three years of experience teaching high school biology) as well as your expectations (when and time limit, a location or online, how long it will take, whether or not they will be renumerated, etc.). This will tend to attract only people that are probably eligible, so part of the selection is already done. If people express interest, you can filter them as the next step.

The social media entity doesn’t do anything or provide any information to anyone else, and all correspondence goes directly back to you. Consequently, it is not a “partner organisation” for the purposes of your methodology.

Calling for respondents: What to do

State in the IRB application and the methodology statement that you plan to recruit participants through posts on specific relevant social media pages. For example, if it is essential that you demonstrate that respondents fit the research population, outline your screening procedure. Your committee will need to see your screening procedure to ensure that you select only respondents that fit your defined research population. (However, this is not related to the use of social media to recruit respondents, because you need some way of screening respondents no matter how you recruit them.) Otherwise, you can identify your research population as those who self-identify as meeting the relevant criteria.

Some other suggestions:

Could I post a survey on social media?

This question is so much about whether you can use social media, but whether respondents fit into your defined research population. If you have some way of ensuring this, it would normally be permissible. However, you usually cannot ensure that respondents fit into your defined research population, even in specialized groups. Facebook has closed and secret pages, which often have admission criteria that could be the same as the criteria for the research population. It looks as if members of those pages fit the defined research population. However, the evidence that people meet the criteria for those pages is self-ascriptive; anybody can join the group simply by saying something that meets the page criteria. In other words, even closed and secret pages are not much guarantee.

But it depends.


With thanks to Rαchεαl Nοblε, Gεrαldinε Jεllybεαn, Lindα Fαirchild, and Jαimε Michεllε.