You know where to find me

Research can take place in any number of settings. Sometimes it’s within a specific place (a university, research centre, lab), sometimes in a community setting (a hospital, school, someone’s home). Sometimes it happens virtually – over the phone, email or via a website or online research tool.

Studies can be designed where the researcher goes to visit participants, but often participants are required to find the research base.

I’ve been thinking recently about how we make this process as easy and stress free as possible for participants. While accounting for their different needs around accessibility and understanding.

In most studies I’ve seen participants will be sent an information letter with instructions on how/where to find the study setting and sometimes a map.

Do we stop and think about if this is adequate for participants, how we might make it as welcoming as possible, how it might reinforce research hierarchies and disempower participants? Do we pilot our directions? Do we ever travel through them ourselves, imagining how our various participants might be feeling on their way to finding us. Are our routes are easy to navigate?

My guess is no, we mostly don’t do this.

And as this remains one of those forgotten aspects of doing social research we are unlikely to question it unless there’s a crisis in our study where we lose participants or they fail to show up.

Although not designed for research, I found this guide written for men with learning disabilities who want to us sexual health services useful as a possible template for guiding people to a study (the companion guide for women is here). It uses a mix of clear text (and an accessible font), a stepwise approach, photos and cartoons to show people how to find a service, what to expect, and their right to both say ‘no’ to what they are unhappy with and be involved with their care.

If you’ve examples of good practice in helping people find where your research is taking place please share below.

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