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Participants 101 - Part 2 - What is taking part in research?

07 January 2016

In our previous blog post, we explored the reasons why you would take part in research and saw that taking part can be emotionally, financially, and intelectually rewarding. Today, we are looking at what taking part means and what can you expect.

What is 'taking part'?

Imagine, if you will, that you have to explain to an alien what life on earth is like. This is quite a difficult task, considering all the different things happening in our world. Not only are there countless things to explain, often we don't really understand all of them ourselves - never mind the complexities of climate change, ecosystems, or other gems of the natural world - we don't even understand everything to do with ourselves, humans. Are some of us genetically destined to become criminals? Why do we succumb to some illnesses while are immune to others? Why do we behave the way we do? These are all questions that researchers around the world are trying to find answers to.

But in order to study humans, researchers need... well, humans. And this is where you come in. Each one of us is unique, special, and acts in a slightly different way. But if a researcher can look at many of us, he or she can start to see trends and begin to make generalisations. But often they need specific people. For example, if a researcher wants to find out why some people are more likely to start smoking, they will need to talk to people who smoke, and also some people who don't. How many people do you know who smoke? Even if that number is large, these are most likely people who are your friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. You share interests with them and are often very similar in your views of the world. But the researcher needs different people - people of different race, different social and economic background, people with different diets, people who live in cities and people who don't. All of a sudden, he or she realises her friends and family isn't enough. They need your help, because you are that unique, different person they need.

Researchers need different people to take part in research

What can I expect when taking part?

When you choose to help the researcher out, there are usually two different ways this can work:

  1. You can do it immediately in some sort of an online research
  2. You will arrange a time to meet the researcher for completing the research

Online research

You can complete online research immediately by clicking the link the researcher has provided your you after you agree to take part. This is often the easiest way to explore what taking part means. This is usually a questionnaire, where you answer several questions about some topic that the researcher is interested in. You can also find yourself watching videos or images or something, or reading news items or scenarios, followed by some test or question about it. At other times, the researcher will want to chat to you, so you can hold an interview via Skype or phone to give your views on whatever the researcher is interested in.

Online research is fast, convenient, and you can do it from anywhere in the world

At this point, you probably ask why? What's the point? Well, getting people's opinions about something allows researcher to provide evidence for policy making and ultimately help yourself or others like you. You've probably heard news and politicians say "research shows that..." or "based on a recent study..." when they talk about changes happening in the society. This is your chance to make your voice heard.

Offline research

The second way you will take part is by completing some sort of a task in the real world. If this is the case, we will put you in touch with the researcher and they will arrange a time for you to meet them and do whatever they need you to do. And you probably think this is some Dr. Frankenstein type of a situation where you get poked with needles and horrible experiments are performed on you. Not quite. Sometimes, all you have to do is live your normal life with some measuring device. And that's not nearly as fun as some other experiments we have seen on Call for Participants. We have seen experiments on our site where you can:

  • have a picture taken of your brain
  • drive a full-size car simulator
  • get pancakes delivered to your door every day for a month
  • play with legos
  • walk in a field while listening to music
  • eat lunch and read a newspaper
  • wear a camera while going food shopping
  • use all sorts of new and exciting apps
  • go watch a marathon or an exhibition

and so much more. So really, when we say taking part, we mean taking part because it is difficult to count all the different and exciting things you will find yourself doing. And as we mentioned in our last post, you will often be rewarded for your time with more goodies.

So why no give it a go today?

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