Using a Chatbot for Research Participant Pre-Screening

I have developed a chatbot to help me engage and screen participants in the initial stages of participant recruitment. That sounds really cool, but this is at the basic level of chatbotology (I just made that word up). My chatbot simply asks a series of questions (that can lead to different outcomes).

I thought I would share what I have done, hoping perhaps that Thesislink readers might give me some feedback regarding the approach!

Setting the Scene

I developed this chatbot to help me recruit potential participants who are working within manufacturing industries. I ask questions that aim to highlight the suitability of the respondents. Potential participants will first hear about the opportunity to participate through an advertisement delivered through professional groups, unions, company intranets etc. The advertisement also includes a non-chatbot option for first contact. An approved Ethics Application, including recruitment process, is a prerequisite.

What does my Chatbot do?

It simply asks a series of questions that signals the broad suitability of the respondent.

Why a Chatbot?

My participants will come from manufacturing industries. Manufacturing employees don’t necessarily have a desk, a computer or a work email address – making initial contact and responding more difficult than for those working in offices or service/knowledge sectors. Furthermore, the smartphone may be the only access to a computer and the internet for some potential participants. I would like to have opportunity for access to front line operational employees without influence from management (e.g. intranet notice).

Some potential participants may trust the content on their phone more so than physical mail, or a printed notice on a notice board or company intranet. A chatbot may engage participants more than a static PDF flyer, and may increase participation from a younger demographic.

The chatbot also allows me to reach a larger pool of potential participants in a shorter time frame, compared to mail, intranets, noticeboards etc. The responses are saved directly to a spreadsheet and I am sent an email notification as soon as responses are received.

What happens next in the participant recruitment process, after the participant completes the questions from the Chatbot?

I assess the responses. I contact potential participants and conduct the first potential participant discussion – in whatever way is agreed in the research ethics application. I also contact potential participants who would not be included in the research and advise them of the outcome.

What about Ethics and Privacy?

There are two points where opting out is prompted, once at the start and once when I re-confirm if I can save the responses. I clearly state how I will use contact information, and I deliberately ask for contact information at the end of the questions. If permission is given to save the data, it is automatically saved in a spreadsheet located securely in a private google account. There could also be references to Ethics Policy with links to relevant material. I have not done that for this example.

Are you ready to try my chatbot and perhaps give me feedback?

Great! The chatbot is in test mode, simply enter in answers just to test, try different question options if you like. This is not part of a study, it is just for you to test the method and usability. I have added a couple of questions at the end of the chatbot for your feedback. Just pretend you work in manufacturing and put in answers for the questions.


Click here for Access to Chatbot – Best if you do this on your phone. Accessing the link on your phone will show the chatbot in the intended mobile environment.

Alternatively, here is a 2D Barcode, scannable by iPhone (and Android if you download a free QR code reader).

Please give it a go, I am very interested to hear your thoughts on the use of a chatbot for participant pre-screening! 

About Chris Griffiths

Chris’ wide experience within New Zealand and overseas manufacturing industries lead him to AUT’s MBA program, where he graduated in December 2016 with distinction and a specialization in operations and management. This sparked an interest in research, leading to his current study towards a Master of Philosophy. Chris is interested in the experiences of individuals in high-performing work teams within New Zealand manufacturers. Chris says “Prior research on successful work teams had a strong cause-effect approach. My research will be unique by focusing on understanding the essence of individual experience. Although I hope that my research will benefit all future work teams, my study will be focused on New Zealand’s manufacturing industries.”

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