Recruiting Participants into Pilot Trials

Techniques for Researchers with Shoestring Budgets

  • Rodney P. Joseph College of Nursing and Health Innovation Arizona State University
  • Colleen Keller College of Nursing and Health Innovation Arizona State University
  • Barbara E. Ainsworth School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, College of Health Solutions Arizona State University


Limited research has focused on recruitment strategies for health promotion researchers conducting smallscale pilot studies. Such research is important because small studies often have limited funding streams and personnel resources. Accordingly, many techniques implemented by large-scale studies are of limited use to smaller research projects. This article provides an overview effective participant recruitment techniques for pilot studies with limited funds and personnel resources. Recruitment techniques were derived from the first author’s experience in recruiting participants during his doctoral and postdoctoral studies, the over 25 years of research experience of each of the co-authors, and an extensive review of the literature. Five key recruitment techniques are discussed: 1) leverage existing social networks and personal contacts, 2) identify and foster collaborations with community gatekeepers, 3) develop a comprehensive list of potential recruitment platforms and venues, 4) create recruitment materials that succinctly describe the purpose of the study, and 5) build respectful and trusting relationships with potential participants. Implementation of the proposed techniques can lead to enhanced recruitment, as well as retention among study participants.

How to Cite
Joseph, R. P., Keller, C., & Ainsworth, B. E. (2016). Recruiting Participants into Pilot Trials: Techniques for Researchers with Shoestring Budgets. Californian Journal of Health Promotion, 14(2), 81-89.