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Reporting your use of incentives

April 8, 2014


I’m always happy to oblige with answering questions from my readers.  This search landed on my blog the other day:

“Do you have to report any incentives given to study participants?”

When it comes to research, an incentive is (according to the Market Research Society) “any benefit offered to respondents to encourage participation in a project”.  I’ve written about incentives before, here, so click to find out more.

My reader is wondering: when it comes to writing up the findings to a research project, is it necessary to say whether and what respondents were given to persuade them to participate?

Good question.

The ‘MRS Regulations for Administering Incentives and Free Prize Draws’ guidance document doesn’t say anything about this at all, and neither does the MRS Code of Conduct.

So there’s no clear answer and you can pretty much do what you like when it comes to reporting incentives.  Do, or don’t, as you like.

However, the Code does state:

B.53: Members must provide Clients with sufficient technical details to enable Clients to assess the validity of results of projects carried out on their behalf.

It is therefore my view that it is preferable to provide details of incentives in the methodology section of a research report as they constitute ‘technical details’ and thus are helpful to the reader.

Transparency of reporting is always good and providing this information does say something about your process, how you managed to drag enough people in, and whether your approach might have influenced the findings.  Obviously if you’ve followed the ‘MRS Regulations for Administering Incentives and Free Prize Draws’ guidance you’ll have nothing to hide in this respect so no harm in including the info.

No need for anything too fancy, perhaps just something like ‘20 respondents were recruited in-street, and £50 cash was offered as an incentive for participation’.

If nothing else, documenting the use of incentives in this way helps to ensure that the project is replicable in the future.

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