1) Presentation format requested: Poster
2) Corresponding author email address: email@example.com
3) Title: Using the Internet to conduct research: Lessons learned
4) Authors: Jane Grassley, PhD, RN, IBCLC; Cheryl Albright, PhD, MPH
5) Institutional Affiliation(s);School of Nursing, Boise State University and School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene and Office of Public Health Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa
6) Key words (up to 5 terms): health promotion, online, recruitment
Objective: The Internet would appear to be a fertile setting to conduct health promotion research because many adolescents and adults report using the internet as a significant source for their health information. However, conducting research online presents investigators with unique challenges, particularly in subject recruitment, retention, and participation in study protocols (intervention and assessments). Â The aim of this presentation will be to discuss lessons learned from conducting two online studies, particularly recruitment activities.
Setting:Â The two studies were based out of Hawaii and Idaho.
Methods: One studyâ€™s design included streaming exercise videos (designed for new mothers) and recruitment included the use of Google Ads that appeared onscreen Â when specific keywords were used in a Google search (i.e., â€œmomâ€, â€œbabyâ€, or â€œworkoutâ€). During the first 2 weeks the researchers had 454 clicks (i.e., views) on their Google Ads and 67 persons visited the recruitment website, consented, and completed a survey. In the second study, the researchers developed a website for a study designed to encourage breastfeeding in new mothers and in the first week had 33 email inquiries about the study and seven Â Â consented and enrolled in the study. In addition, 22 other participants were , consentedand enrolled after seeing flyers posted in the community.Â Both studies paid participants for time spent completing baseline surveys ($5 – $10 respectively).
Results: In the first study, the researchers discovered 53 persons had provided incorrect or fraudulent emails/addresses/phone numbers or were men, when they were verifying addresses before mailing intervention materials. This resulted in dropping 79% of the initial participants and changing recruitment protocols to include phone verifications of eligibility/contact information prior to consent. In the second study, the researchers enrolled seven of 30 total participants before becoming suspicious about the legitimacy of their interest in the study; becausetwo requests were from men who reported they were pregnant and multiple requests sent from the same IP address.
Interpretation: Although the internet seems to be a rich source for conducting research/recruitment, investigators need to beware of â€œscammersâ€ seeking money through enrolling in a study for which they are ineligible or inappropriate. The recruitment plan needs to include safeguards for verifying eligibility such as calling prospective persons to verify phone number and eligibility prior to consent,, asking participants how they heard about the study, and checking for multiple inquires from one IP address.