Recruiting Study Participants

The decision to participate in research should be voluntary and the approach to recruitment is an important element in assuring voluntariness. In particular, how, when, why and where participants are approached and who recruits them are important elements in assuring voluntariness. Participant recruitment is intrinsically tied to informed consent and indeed, is the first step in this process. Because of this, all recruitment and advertising methods must be reviewed and approved by the Research Ethics Board (REB) prior to their implementation.

The ARISE application should fully describe the recruitment procedures and all applicable materials should be appended in the documents section. Once ethics approval has been obtained, additional approvals may still be required. Many organizations require operational approval prior to undertaking any recruitment activities with their staff, clients or in their facilities.

Participant recruitment cannot begin until REB approval has been granted.

Undue Influence

Article 3.1 of the Tri-Council Policy Statement 2 (TCPS2) states that undue influence and manipulation arise when prospective participants are recruited by individuals in a position of authority. This imbalance in power can be real or perceived. It is often seen in the workplace (employer vs employee), the health field (physician vs patient), or academics (instructor vs student), to name a few. The REB examines the existence and acknowledgement of this relationship and what steps are in place to ensure that it has the least impact on the individual's decision to participate. The REB also considers elements of trust and dependency in relationships, such as those between caregiver and dependent. The risk of undue influence is greater in situations of ongoing or significant dependency. Pre-existing entitlements to care, education and other services should not be prejudiced by the decision of whether or not to participate in, or withdraw from, a research project.

Coercion is a more extreme form of undue influence that involves a threat of harm or punishment that would immediately negate the voluntariness of participation or otherwise.

Other related sections:

Use of Incentives in Research

Recruitment Materials Requirements

Social Media / Online Recruitment

Use of Email for Recruitment

Recruitment in Health Research

Students as Research Participants


Download the full document: Recruitment Guidelines