Reflections on Recruitment

Reflections on the recruitment process and lessons learnt

The key lessons learnt by the From Boys to Men research team about the recruitment of young men, specifically for the purpose of researching issues relating to violence are as follows:

  • Do all you can to make sure that those explaining the research to participants really understand what it is about. This means going beyond those who are team managers to frontline staff and talking through your project with them.
  • Be available to meet or speak on the phone with prospective participants.
  • Make your information sheet as clear and easy to read as possible.
  • Be realistic about what can be offered in return for participation.
  • Anticipate a high drop-out rate. This will involve building in extra time and resources to cover the costs of those who fail to show. It will also require you to sample from many different sites and organisations.
  • When participants do agree to participate, make sure there is ample time for the interview to take place and that those helping to facilitate this understand that the interview should not be interrupted once it has started.

The researcher strives to obtain the best quality data possible within the circumstances, awareness of the listed issues will help you to make the most of your data collection opportunities.

One of the gatekeepers associated with the From Boys to Men project, who facilitated six interviews with young people attending the Youth Offending Service, offered the following reflections on the recruitment process.

From an operational perspective the recruitment had two elements – firstly to recruit the case manager (worker) and also the young person. The case managers as well as the young people needed to be engaged in the research. It was quickly found that case managers who had not fully engaged, be it a result of time, workload pressures or not correctly reading / listening to the research information, did not successfully engage their young people. This challenge had to be overcome by the gatekeeper and was well supported by the research team. For example, a simple approach was emails sent directly to the case manager in addition to the gatekeeper in preparation stages. Once recognised, recruitment improved.

The research team provided clear, concise and simple project information from the outset that assisted the recruitment of participants. The team provided a consistent and accessible point of contact. Possibly most logistically useful was their flexibility; with often chaotic and complex young people participating in the research the research team were more than aware of the difficulties in engagement and amenable and patient with last minute appointment changes and young people’s timekeeping.

The informal style of the research team also made the process much easier.  This assisted the gatekeepers in engaging young people who were often mistrustful of research. Simple aspects of this style, from casual dress to conversing readily on topics familiar to young people were effective tools. Also quickly evident were the research team’s skills in interviewing. The length of time that participants spent in interviews spoke for itself. This challenging group of young people were engaged and mostly co-operative, evidently happy to speak at length about difficult and personal subjects.

Key advice:

  • Continued communication between the research team, case managers and young people which begins with clear information on the research project available to both the case manager and young person.
  • Engage case managers in the aims of the research.
  • Request that reminders are sent out to young people, but also be available to quickly respond to queries from both case managers and potential participants.
  • Be aware of the operational challenges involved for case managers and be as flexible as possible.