How to recruit participants for user research

Version 1.1

0.120/01/2023Initial Draft
1.027/06/2022Published Document
– Introduction – Updated wording & Additional paragraph
– Identify Target Group of users – Updated wording
– Define your participant criteria – Updated wording & Additional bullet points
– Participants’ Privacy – New Section
Recruit participants for user research – Updated wording & Additional bullet points

Table of contents

When doing user research, you will need to recruit participants to part-take in your research activities.

Participants should be the people/citizens/organizations that use your service.

For better results, your research participants should cover many ranges of categories, such as:

  • Educated or non-educated 
  • Familiar with the internet or not familiar at all, 
  • From age 18-90 
  • Familiar or actual users of the service that need to be implemented 
  • People with accessibility issues (i.e. impaired needs)
  • People that require specific help to use the service that needs to be implemented 
  • Or a specific category of people that might need to be interviewed for a better understanding of the general perception 

Identifying target groups of users

Classify all the different types of users of your service to include the right ones in the survey. 

Use existing data to help you do this, including:

  • survey results
  • government and industry statistics
  • service performance data and analytics
  • user profiles in governmental systems
  • participants that took part in older surveys
  • other possible groups according to the service needs

Decide the method and the number of participants for the user research

According to the stage of the project and the service type, that needs to be implemented, the research team should decide the method/type of UR as well as whether to execute qualitative or quantitative research.  The number of participants depends on the method/type and the period/range of the research. 

For quantitative research, you will need hundreds of participants to get a statistically significant result. For qualitative user research, 5-8 participants will help you to learn 80% of the usability issues of the design.  

According to the service, a specific category of participants might need to be interviewed for a better understanding of the general perception.

Define your participant criteria

The recruitment criteria should clearly specify the people that will participate in the research. 

Depending on the service and the planned research, criteria might include: 

  • a particular demographic – for example, young people aged 18 to 25 
  • a specific target user group –  for example, for the implementation of the “Child birth Grant” Service, pregnant women that will give birth or mothers that already gave birth within 12 months were included.
  • a particular experience – for example, people who have recently applied for a government grant 
  • a problematic situation – such as people who paid penalties because of governmental delays, or people who lost a grant because of governmental wrong documentation 

further to the above points, participants should cover the below criteria as well: 

  • age (18 – 90) 
  • gender (M, F, O) 
  • ethnicity (any) 
  • religion groups (any) 
  • disability or impairments 
  • social status 
  • educational level, university level 
  • financial status 
  • familiar with the internet or not, familiar with technology or not 
  • laptop owner, tablet, or smartphone owner 

This will help your team to get research findings from a diverse and representative selection of your users. 

Participants’ privacy 

 All participants’ details are kept according to ARTICLE 30 and DPIA Data Protection Standards. Any personal identifying participant details captured when scheduling participants or note-taking must be GDPR compliant to protect the participants’ data and confidentiality.

Only the research team is allowed to have access to files including participants’ details. As soon as the research round is finished, files are deleted.  

Recruiting participants for user research

According to the service that needs to be implemented the research team should decide whether to:

  • work with samples that are already taken from past investigations
  • work with a small range of citizens or companies (accordingly) 
  • work with a large number of participants 
  • include the whole reference population in the study
  • identify potential participants depending on the type of service, type of people, age, education level, and the available resources 

Based on the above decisions, the research team could find participants in the ways below:

  1. Work with a recruitment agency or panel company
  2. Visit a support location i.e., Civil Service Centre (ΚΕΠ/ΚΕΠΟ)
  3. Visit a Main Governmental Point (such as the Post office, Hospitals, Governmental authorities, etc.)
  4. Visit social points
  5. Reach out to users from the database of your own product (only with the consent of the citizen/user)
  6. Contact Participants from older surveys that already gave their approval for future surveys
  7. Find people from friends or family environment 
  8. Posting on social media banners and other advertisements asking for an audience, newspaper advertisements, emails, and letters
  9. Recruit internally within a company
  10. Talk with citizens and others to expand the audience/participants 
  11. Other possible locations according to the service needs.

For more successful user research investigations, participants should not be biased by the service needs.

Each way of selecting participants has its advantages and disadvantages that the research team should take into consideration. (i.e. include participants from past research rounds)


It’s normal for members of the public to get an incentive in return for their time. You should also consider compensating third-party organisations who help you find participants.

How much this is will depend on the type of participant and the length of the research session. You can ask agencies for advice on how much you should give.

You may need to pay extra expenses to help disabled participants participate in research – they may need a helper, taxis or someone to help with communication like a sign language interpreter.

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