New publication by team that includes UWSC researchers describes how they adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 to recruit hard-to-reach population

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced challenges for conducting research, particularly for studies that use community-based sample generation strategies to recruit hard-to-reach populations. In a recently published “In-Brief Note” in the AAPOR online journal Survey Practice, UWSC staff members Graduate Assistant Jacob Boelter and Senior Project Director Ken Croes teamed up with University of Wisconsin–Madison Institute for Research on Poverty Research Scientist Lisa Klein Vogel and University of Wisconsin–Madison Sociology Doctoral Candidate Alexis M. Dennis to describe how they adapted their studies’ recruitment strategies to accommodate the manifold effects of social distancing of COVID-19.

Drawing on two studies for the article, the authors recount how they pivoted from traditional, in-person methods for generating community-based sample to virtual means as much as possible. For example, before COVID-19, the research teams might have travelled to the offices of community partners such as human service agencies and community organizations to request their help in disseminating information about the studies. However, in late 2021 and early 2022, many agency staff were working remotely. The research teams therefore relied on email and phone contact instead. When staff agreed to help, both research teams emailed PDFs of flyers they had developed to promote their studies. Whenever possible, the research team offered to send hard copies of the flyers and asked their community partners to post the flyers in public spaces where their clients might see them. For agencies and organizations whose staffs were working remotely, however, the research teams asked them to circulate the flyer PDF electronically.

With these and other methods described in the article, the research teams met their recruitment goals. The authors note that what they learned is applicable not only to “recruitment strategies under pandemic conditions and other situations that prevent in-person contact,” but also to “research recruitment generally given the increasing prevalence of virtual ways of working and connecting.”

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