Is Paying Participants the Only Way to Improve Engagement?

Margaret Becker

For academic researchers and scientists, participant compensation takes up a significant portion of their research budget. Effective research requires qualified, reliable participants—and that requires some form of compensation.


Researchers often struggle to keep participants engaged enough to complete a research study from start to finish. As a result, researchers have to oversample at the beginning of their study to ensure they finish with an acceptable sample. 


Is payment the main criteria to improve engagement? The short answer is no... And yes. While compensation is necessary, its value can be amplified when used in combination with the following considerations.

Define participant benefits

When preparing to recruit participants, consider the following questions:

  • What’s in it for the participant? 
  • What’s in it for the company/institution? 
  • Why should they complete your study? 

If you’re not sure or don’t have an answer to any of the above, rethink your survey and its purpose. Consider how you can develop an experience that drives value for everyone involved.

Use participant motivation techniques

There are a few different ways to frame participation to encourage engagement. Consider the demographics of your participants and their interest in the research topic to decide which of the following would be most effective for inspiring action.


Research alliance

Focus the benefits on how your participants will be part of the scientific process of learning and discovery. Highlight your alliance as a partnership, and praise participants for their contributions.


Demonstrate progress & provide feedback

Provide regular updates on participants’ compliance rates over time, including individualized feedback on their growth and learning. Sharing progress reports can be especially beneficial for inspiring ongoing engagement in lengthier surveys and longitudinal studies.

Extend engagement outside the survey

Participant-researcher relationships are often described as transactional. Researchers get their answer and participants get their cash. But, what if there was continuous engagement after completing the study?


One way to grow engagement with the research is by providing like-minded participants with a community that can continue to grow and learn more about the topic. Participants gain the added benefit of ongoing growth and learning, while researchers have the opportunity to explore more holistic data in a real-world environment.

Amplify engagement

Paying survey participants is an essential consideration for driving engagement, but it’s not the only strategy researchers should deploy. Explore other opportunities to develop surveys that benefit participants outside of financial compensation.


Amplify Engagement with Compensation

Demography lets you pay your survey participants without ever leaving ExpiWell.

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