Doing research involves experimental studies. For those of us doing research in HCI or education or information visualization (and many others) those studies involve humans. We want to know what they think, how they act, how they react to our inventions and interventions. Using humans in studies involves two things: IRB and recruiting.
I’ll write more about IRB (Institutional Review Boards) in another blog post, this one is about recruiting. Ever since becoming a PhD student and trying to get studies accomplished, I have a much softer heart for anyone else trying to gather data for a study. When you are desperately trying to find enough volunteers to fulfill the necessary quota to obtain some semblance of statistical significance, you realize how hard it can be. Stories abound of PhD and masters students begging and pleading with their friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers to participate in their studies. Without their participation you have no data. No data = no results = no publication (and no graduation).
So now whenever I get those emails (which now, toward the end of the semester when everyone is trying to finish a study) asking for volunteers for a study, I’m almost always inclined to say yes. I even help out telephone surveys – they’re just trying to do their job and all it costs me is a little time. I like to think of it as good karma, which will hopefully be returned to me when I’m looking for those last few volunteers for my last study to complete my dissertation.
So remember, when someone asks you to help out with a study, have a heart and say yes. You never know, in the future it may be you doing the asking…