Research Methods (1) Interviews

5. Recruiting research participants (b) Recruitment strategies

There are several strategies that can be used to recruit participants for your research. These include:

  • Choosing participants from a subset of a survey to hold a more in-depth interview (Peake 2018).

Active sampling:

  • A form of cold calling involving approaching members of the public directly to ask them if they want to participate in your research project.
  • This is a strategy that may pose several ethical issues, including imposing on people’s privacy, and impeding the ability to secure voluntary and informed consent.

Purposive sampling:

  • giving people information about your study and giving them the opportunity to volunteer to participate, for example, through posting an advertisement calling for participants in a local newspaper or radio station, or placing posters calling for participants on a neighbourhood noticeboard.
  • This strategy relies on participants identifying with categories that are imposed on them by the research framework and having the time and resources to volunteer to participate.

Snowball sampling:

  • Using the social networks of existing research participants to reach potential participants.
  • Snowball sampling can be particularly useful for ‘hidden’ populations who may be reluctant or unlikely to respond to public calls for participation due to the nature of the issue being studied, or personal circumstances, such as existing demands on their time (Browne, 2005; Cannon et al, 1988).

 Reflection exercise: 

  • Which recruitment methods are most suited to reaching the people in your research sample?


  • Cannon, L.W., Higginbotham, E and Leung, M. 1988. Race and Class Bias in Qualitative Research on Women. Gender and Society, 2 (4), pp. 449-462.
  • Browne, K. 2005. Snowball Sampling: Using Social Networks to Research Non-heterosexual Women. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. 8(1), pp. 47-60.
  • Peake, L. 2018. Presentation at the ‘Workshop in Urban Feminist Research: Ethnographic Research Tools’, Ramallah, Palestine, July 2018.