Notes on Recruitment Materials

Notes on Recruitment Materials

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Recruitment Materials & Guidelines

Recruitment materials should include:  

  1. The title of the study
  2. The TC IRB protocol number
  3. An accurate description of the research purpose 
  4. Any eligibility criteria
  5. The name and contact of the investigator or facility (including university affiliation and/or department)
  6. A description of the risks and benefits
  7. The time commitment(s) required
  8. The amount of compensation (if applicable) and criteria for earning the compensation
  9. The location of the research

Recruitment materials should not include: 

  • Coercive language
  • Claims that a device or drug is safe and effective
  • The words “new treatment,” “new medication,” or “new drug” if the test article is investigational
  • Promises of “free medical treatment”
  • Amount of payment, dollar signs, or the words “free” in large or boldface type
  • Excessive compensation relative to the nature of the project
  • Statements or implications assuring favorable outcomes or other benefits beyond what is outlined in the consent document and protocol
  • Claims, either explicitly or implicitly, that the test article is known to be equivalent or superior to any other test, procedure, drug, biologic, or device
  • Exculpatory language

Notes on Recruitment Types

  • Media advertising is intended to solicit participation in a study, and is not necessarily an objectionable practice.
  • Researchers may use direct advertising such as newspapers, radio, TV, bulletin boards, posters, and flyers intended to recruit prospective subjects.
    • Direct advertising for study subjects is often viewed as the start of the informed consent and subject selection process. 
    • IRBs review direct advertising to assure that it is not unduly coercive and does not promise a certainty beyond what is outlined in the consent form and the protocol, especially when research may involve subjects who are likely to be vulnerable to undue influence.
  • Advertisements should be reviewed and approved by the IRB as part of the package for the initial review. 
    • Advertisements to recruit subjects should be limited to the information the prospective subjects need to determine their eligibility and interest in the study. 
  • IRBs review the final copy of recruitment materials to evaluate the messaging, readability, and other visual effects. 
  • The IRB should assure that the recruitment procedures followed adequately protect the rights and welfare of the prospective subjects. 
  • Researchers should adhere to the approved recruitment methods.
  • If researchers plan to change recruitment methods, they should notify the IRB through a minor modification.

Public vs. Private Recruitment

During the recruitment process, researchers should be considerate of whether they are recruiting in public establishments versus private spaces, as recruitment in non-public spaces may be subject to additional requirements. This applies to both in-person and online recruitment. The table below provides some examples of recruitment in public and private spaces.

Public Private 
Researcher stands on a street corner and hands out recruitment flyers. Researcher goes into a privately owned establishment and hands out recruitment flyers.
Student researcher posts their flyer on their school’s community board. Researcher posts their recruitment flyer in a business after gaining permission from the head staff.
Posting recruitment on personal social media or social media accounts that are public (e.g., not locked or set to private). Posting recruitment on social media platforms and accounts that are not visible to the public (e.g., only available to a specific group of people).
Sharing recruitment materials in a forum or group that is available for anyone to join Sharing recruitment materials in a forum or group that is not open to the public and requires admittance by moderators.
Recruiting through word of mouth and using personal email contacts. Recruiting through your place of work contacts or educational networks (if you are a teacher or school administrator).

Some online spaces (e.g., forums) may be visible to the public, but participation requires the user to meet certain criteria or have a specific role. These space are considered private spaces. This includes Facebook groups in which an administrator confirms you have a certain quality that allows you to be part of the group once terms of use are agreed to (e.g. “You must be a resident of Morningside Heights to be a part of this group”). If you are a part of a private group under a different role (e.g., Morningside Heights resident), you may not be able to post your recruitment materials for research purposes unless you disclose your researcher status to the moderators and group prior to posting. For private groups, it is always best to ensure you have full permission from the moderators to post as a researcher. In general, TC IRB recommends these three steps when looking to recruit in private digital spaces:

  1. Review the space's Terms of Use. 
  2. Contact the moderators/administrators of the space and ask for permission to post or engage with the group.
  3. Lastly, announce yourself as a researcher to be clear of your role in the group.

For samples of recruitment flyers, please follow the link for templates and find the downloadable document with IRB adminstrator comments and considerations:

For samples of recruitment letters and scripts, please download the following documents:

Lastly, please find our additional information in our Participant Recruitment Guide.

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