Plea from a Novice Researcher

3 Aug

Pic courtesy of J.Mulik

Dear Participant,

Thank you for agreeing to participate in this study. Its success, and ultimately that of my academic career, rests to some extent in your hands. Over the course of this study, I will likely see you more regularly than I do my own loved ones. Seeing as your participation therefore marks the beginning of a significant partnership, let’s just do each other a favour and lay all of our cards out on the table. From my perspective, if you would kindly note the following:

(1) Be totally up front with me.  If you know deep down that you will be unable to manage the requirements of this study, be it the time commitment or protocol demands, then just say so … as soon as possible. I’m sure you’re trying your best to be accommodating, but if you miss too many visits or eventually drop out, I likely won’t be able to use your data anyways. Nor will I be able to get back all the time I spent on you to put towards another participant. You could save us both a lot of stress and frustration if you just tell me straight up that this isn’t going to work. I’m a big girl, I promise I can handle it (and if not, the campus pub is only a few short strides away).

(2) Even though I’m conducting this study, I did not develop everything I’m asking you to do. As a novice researcher, I’m just doing the best I can with what I’ve got. If what’s available is in any way offensive or sub-standard in your regards, I apologize. I did not intend for your particular ethnic group to be omitted on questionnaires, nor did I mean to make you do tasks that are particularly tedious, onerous, or irrelevant to your daily life. These are standardized, which means my hands are tied with respect to changing them. If it makes you feel any better, you are totally within your right to refuse to participate in any such portion of the study. Just please don’t take it personal.

(3) I’m a student not a doctor; please don’t expect a miracle cure. Please understand that the primary goal of this study is to produce general knowledge, not to treat you in particular (though if that happened it would be awesome!). This is still research, which means I can’t guarantee that this intervention will even work. If you’re looking solely for a treatment, please see your health care provider. Likewise, I can’t even guarantee that you’ll receive the actual intervention we’re investigating. There’s a good chance you may be randomly assigned to receive the placebo, in which case, your current condition is likely to remain as is. As much as I would like to help treat you, I definitely can’t promise that I will (please see item #1 if you still have some concerns).

(4) I don’t know everything & my ego is fragile. As a student, I’m still in the process of learning. Please don’t expect me to have all the answers. Even worse, don’t try to grill me, quiz me, or one-up me with your own knowledge base. Being yelled at, interrogated, or belittled by you for NOT knowing something would definitely be enough to make me want to hide out in the bathroom for a little while, and almost enough to make me reconsider my competency as a researcher altogether. If I have in any way come off as a know-it-all, I apologize. I’m probably inadvertently over-compensating for being nervous. That being said, what I do know I‘m happy to share with you, and what I don’t know I promise to seek out for you. Just please be kind and I promise to be the same way to you.

(5) Let’s just have fun with it. Need I say more?

Sincerely,

Your Humble Student Researcher

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One Response to “Plea from a Novice Researcher”

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