One of the [possibly] unforeseen outcomes of the rigorous ethical approval processes and some may say the even more draconian research governance processes that we have in the UK is the fact that, increasingly, health and social care researchers are resorting to increasingly innovative ways to recruit participants for their research. This is partly, I fear because NHS governance systems are cumbersome , and in some cases expensive,and slow down research studies to pre-global warming glacial speed. A number of tech-savvy people are beginning to look to recruiting via cyber-communities through project specific websites often hosted by an appropriate support group or charity. This can be seen as a good thing since often participants are prevented from even hearing about their potential research involvement opportunities by over protective health care staff and this approach, at least gives them the chance to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be included
However, a couple of my PhD colleagues had similar experiences the other day which made me ponder how much people outside of universities understand about what is meant by Doctoral level research. The assumption made when they approached the website owners was that either they were undergraduates or that they were undergraduates doing some kind of media course. They were told in no uncertain terms that they were unlikely to get any form of support from the website owners, even though all they had asked for was that a link to their study be added to the site.
Both were understandably disappointed but I suggested that they go back to the people concerned and explain exactly what level of study they were at and how their research could conceivably affect the client groups the charities had been set up to serve; that this was not a small six week research project designed with no other reason but to to complete a research methods module, but something requiring commitment and deep thought and eye watering amounts of hard work. Pleasingly, on having made clear to them that the doctoral candidates were engaged in high quality, long term studies that were rigorously conducted and reviewed they were happy to collaborate.
The point that I am making here is that it pays to go back and seek an explanation if someone turns down your request for help when doing doctoral data collection using online media. Sometimes, and I guess this is part of the it-isn't-good-enough paranoia that affects most people doing a PhD at some time, students can be a bit too deprecating about their work. If someone says 'no' have the courage of your conviction and don't give up!