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The interview protocol was designed to solicit rich feedback from participants. To this end, following demographic questions, critical incident technique (CIT) was used. For over 50 years the CIT has been and continues to be an effective exploratory and investigative tool that is widely used in qualitative research methods (Butterfield, Borgen, Amundson, & Maglio, 2005; Chell, 1998; Woolsey, 1986). After the critical incident questions allow participants to describe their experiences open-endedly without any kind of set structure, specific questions follow that aim at uncovering the critical behavior sets that would allow a determination to be made regarding the research questions. The interview protocol contains a mix of open-ended and close-ended questions. A 5-point Likert scale was used for some of the close-ended questions. Researchers deem 5-point Likert scales as a more sound mechanism to use for current research than that of 7-point or 10-point scales (Dawes, 2008). The interviews were administered via telephone; responses were entered by the interviewer into a spreadsheet.

As part of the interview protocol, the researcher asked following questions:

General Questions

  1. What is your age?
  2. In what industry do you work?
  3. How many people are employed by your organization?
  4. Are you an individual contributor, a manager or a director (manager of managers)? If management, how large is the team that reports to you?
  5. How frequently do you use the microblog—including reading updates and writing updates?
  6. How long have you been a microblog user?

Critical Incident Questions

Reason for the questions in this section: to understand the spectrum of experiences from good, to typical, to bad. This understanding paints a picture of overall usage. It is effective to ask these questions before the specific ones to prevent the specific questions from constraining participants’ responses.

  1. Describe a typical experience you have had with the microblog.
    1. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always.
    2. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of the microblog? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Reason for question: this question can help uncover the most common uses, “typical” uses with microblogs and will inform if there are any benefits to using Yammer and if there are, when are they likely to happen? If they happen during a typical experience that would allow us to draw conclusions and generalize to all Yammer users, if they only happen during a “very good experience” example, then we can conclude that this is a “best practice” behavior that doesn’t happen often.

  1. Describe a very good experience you have had with the microblog.
    1. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always.
    2. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of the microblog? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Reason for question: Again, this question brings to light what a good experience looks like and ascertains how often such experiences take place. If a good experience only happens infrequently, is it still worth it to use Yammer?

  1. Describe a bad experience you have had with the microblog.
    1. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always.
    2. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of the microblog? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Reason for question: This research looks to identify how useful Yammer can be but what about the opposite? How damaging can using, or misusing Yammer be and how does that effect the perceived value of the tool.

Specific Questions

  1. Has using a microblog changed your level of awareness with regards to what your colleagues are doing? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  2. Have you ever reached out to someone because of their status message, or has someone ever reached out to you because of your status message? For example, have you ever read a status update from a colleague and realized you can help them; perhaps you had a great article or tool or information to share that was relevant?

Reason for the question: to ascertain if people reach out to each other to help, this would be the start of a community of practice. In addition, how often does it happen and how much is it valued compared to how relevant it was?

  1. If not, why don’t you think you have ever reached out or been contacted?
  2. If so, can you give me an example?
  3. What was the result of the interaction? For example, did you receive some new information? Did you receive assistance with a task at hand?
  4. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you or your colleague looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
  5. How relevant was this information to what you and/or your colleague were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  6. How much did you and/or do you think your colleague valued the interaction? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  7. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always
  8. Have you ever benefitted from reading a status updates that did not result in you reaching out to a colleague or a colleague reaching out to you? For example, have you ever read a status update that gave you a tip, or had an attachment you could use that assisted you in some way with something you were studying or working on?

Reason for the question: unlike the questions using CIT, this question is focused on the benefits from reading a status message and can help ascertain if Yammer provides on-the-job learning opportunities and/or performance support that are not related to interacting with someone else, and if so how did that benefit come about. In addition, if there was a benefit, how much was it valued and how often does it happen. Is the value in Yammer more about connecting with others or receiving content that is interesting or useful in some way? What is the relationship between the relevance of the content to the task at hand with respect to the person’s valuing the content? How do Yammer users find good content—do they proactively search or just reactively receive?

  1. If not, why don’t you think you ever benefitted from the updates of people you follow?
  2. f so, can you give me an example?
  3. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
  4. How relevant was this information to what you were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  5. How much did you value the update? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  6. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always
  7. In general, if you think about all the times someone has reached out to offer a helping hand, or you read a status message that helped you with the work at hand, how much has using a microblog contributed to your learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution)

Reason for question: up until this point, participants have been asked these questions indirectly, at the end of the interview it is time to ask them directly to see how aware they are of the benefits of the tool, and if their responses are consistent.

  1. To your effectiveness and efficiency?
  2. If not, why don’t you think the microblog has contributed to your learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?
  3.  (Question applies only to managers of people) How much has using the microblog contributed to your team’s learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution)

Reason for question: Is there a discrepancy between how the manager’s perceive Yammer and how individual contributors perceive Yammer. The goal of the study is to convince corporations to use tools like Yammer, perceptions of both audiences will be critical to achieve this.

  1. To your team’s effectiveness and efficiency?
  2. If not, why don’t you think the microblog has contributed to your team’s learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?
  3. Does using a microblog make you feel like you are part of a community of colleagues to whom you can turn to for help on the job?

Reason for question: up until this point, participants have been asked to talk about their experiences using Yammer. The researcher postulates that through Yammer’s uses, people will feel like they are part of a community of colleagues to whom they can turn to for help on the job. At the end of the interview it is time to ask them this question directly to see how aware they are of the benefits of the tool, and if their responses are consistent.

  1. If not, why don’t you think using the microblog makes you feel like you can reach out for help?

This is a section of a research study, to read more, go to the Table of Contents.

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Materials and Procedure

The emails and any messages posted on blogs will contain a request for participation that also informed participants why they were receiving the message, what they are being asked to do and the criteria by which they are eligible: that they have used Yammer for more than a month. It will also include what they will receive for participation. For participation, subjects will receive $50. (This researcher decided to add this incentive because of the before mentioned difficulties in acquiring participants.)

The public microblog Twitter, will also be used to collect participants and since it only allows 140 characters of text, a summarized request participation message will be required.

Messages to Recruit Participants

Microblog message (140 characters max):

Yammer users wanted 4 study on its use in orgs, $50 reimb. If using Yammer for 1 month min + post 3x weekly email: microblogstudy@gmail.com

Email and blog message:

Dear Yammer Users

A study is currently being conducted on microblogs in the workplace and you would receive $50 for your participation. The purpose of this study is to examine whether or not microblogs, when used within an organization to communicate with colleagues, can help people learn, improve their performance and create communities of colleagues who help each other with on-the-job activities.

Neither your name nor the name of your organization will be revealed when reporting results, pseudonyms will be used instead.

If you have been using Yammer for at least a month, read colleagues status messages and update your status on average at least three times a week, and would like to participate in the study, please email: microblogstudy@gmail.com expressing your interest and you will be contacted you to schedule a 1 hour telephone interview.

All participants will be offered a copy of the research results.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

This is a section of a research study, to read more, go to the Table of Contents.

The research was aimed at current users of Yammer, which, according to a Yammer representative, is currently over 1 million. In an unpublished pilot study, this researcher has seen the benefits of using Yammer bring themselves to light after only 1 day of use; however, this researcher required that participants have at least a month’s experience using Yammer.

Participants were hard to find because organizations that use microblogs to communicate internally are difficult to find and approach, and even when found an approached, many organizations do not allow employees to participate in research that can reveal something about the organization as a whole. The researcher recruited participants via a request for participation through internet searches, blogs, wikis, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and various other social media tools. Various groups of people were contacted such as groups available for participation through LinkedIn. The researcher also contacted anyone who she is aware of is currently or has used a microblog to communicate with colleagues in the past. All organizations who list themselves on the Yammer website as using the tool were also contacted and given the opportunity to participate. Once participants were interviewed, using the snowball sampling method, each was asked to recommend another participant. Again, the reason for this was that given the focus of this research is on organizations and their use of microblogs such as Yammer, this researcher anticipated that it would be difficult securing participants. The researcher emphasized that participants will remain confidential to increase their level of comfort in participation, and also offered assistance in securing the organization’s approval, including a sample letter that could be sent to secure approval.

Due to all the difficulties outlined above, the goal was to interview approximately 15-25 participants. As explained by researchers focused on revealing the best sample size in qualitative research: phenomenologies directed toward discerning the essence of experiences should include about 6-10 participants. (Morse, 1994, 2000; Sandelowski, 1995) However, Marshall (1996) says: “New themes stopped emerging after about 15 interviews and an acceptable interpretative framework was constructed after 24 interviews—the stage of thematic and theoretical saturation.” In the end, 25 subjects participated in the study.

This is a section of a research study, to read more, go to the Table of Contents.

Dear Yammer Users

A study is currently being conducted on microblogs in the workplace and you would receive $50 for your participation. The purpose of this study is to examine whether or not microblogs, when used within an organization to communicate with colleagues, can help people learn, improve their performance and create communities of colleagues who help each other with on-the-job activities.

Neither your name nor the name of your organization will be revealed when reporting results, pseudonyms will be used instead.

If you have been using Yammer for at least a month, read colleagues status messages and update your status on average at least three times a week, and would like to participate in the study, please email: microblogstudy@gmail.com expressing your interest and you will be contacted you to schedule a 1 hour telephone interview.

All participants will be offered a copy of the research results.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

Reni Gorman,
Columbia University

PS-The deadline for participation is end of March 2011

Materials and Procedure

The emails and any messages posted on blogs will contain a request for participation that also informed participants why they were receiving the message, what they are being asked to do and the criteria by which they are eligible: that they have used Yammer for more than a month. It will also include what they will receive for participation. For participation, subjects will receive $50. (This researcher decided to add this incentive because of the before mentioned difficulties in acquiring participants.)

Microblogs will also be used to collect participants and since they only allow 140 characters of text, a summarized request participation message will be required.

Messages to Recruit Participants

Microblog message (140 characters max):

Yammer users wanted 4 study on its use in orgs, $50 reimb. If using Yammer for 1 month + post 3x weekly, email: microblogstudy@gmail.com

Email and blog message:

Dear Yammer Users

A study is currently being conducted on microblogs in the workplace and you would receive $50 for your participation. The purpose of this study is to examine whether or not microblogs, when used within an organization to communicate with colleagues, can help people learn, improve their performance and create communities of colleagues who help each other with on-the-job activities.

Neither your name nor the name of your organization will be revealed when reporting results, pseudonyms will be used instead.

If you have been using Yammer for at least a month, read colleagues status messages and update your status on average at least three times a week, and would like to participate in the study, please email: microblogstudy@gmail.com expressing your interest and you will be contacted you to schedule a 1 hour telephone interview.

All participants will be offered a copy of the research results.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

The research is aimed at current users of Yammer, which, according to a Yammer, is currently just over 1 million. In an unpublished pilot study, this researcher has seen the benefits of using Yammer bring themselves to light after only 1 day of usage, however, this researcher will require that participants have at least a month’s experience using Yammer.

Participants are hard to find because organizations that use microblogs to communicate internally are difficult to find and approach, and even when found an approached, many organizations do not allow employees to participate in research that can reveal something about the organization as a whole. The researcher will try to recruit participants via a request for participation through internet searches, blogs, wikis, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and various other social media tools. Various groups of people will be contacted such as groups available for participation through LinkedIn. The researcher will also contact anyone who she is aware of is currently or has used a microblog to communicate with colleagues in the past. Individuals will not be contacted one-on-one, instead the researcher will send out mass emails to groups of users. All organizations who list themselves on the Yammer website (or any other internally used microblog’s website) as using the tool will also be contacted and given the opportunity to participate. Once participants are interviewed, using the snowball sampling method, each will be asked to recommend another participant. Again, the reason for this is that given this research is focused on organizations and their use of microblogs such as Yammer, this researcher anticipates that it will be difficult securing participants. Of course, the researcher will emphasize that the participants will remain confidential to increase their level of comfort in participation, and also offer assistance in securing the organization’s approval, including a sample letter that could be sent to secure approval. Due to all the difficulties outlined above, the goal will be to interview approximately 15-25 participants.

As explained by researchers focused on revealing the best sample size in qualitative research: phenomenologies directed toward discerning the essence of experiences should include about 6-10 participants. (Morse, 1994, 2000; Sandelowski, 1995) However, Marshall (1996) says: “New themes stopped emerging after about 15 interviews and an acceptable interpretative framework was constructed after 24 interviews—the stage of thematic and theoretical saturation.”

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

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