6 Tips for Creating an Online Screener That Works

For any type of recruitment advertising, it is important to set up an easy way for potential participants to let you know they are interested. People may have different preferences for how they get in touch—some may prefer the immediacy and interaction of a phone call with the study team, while others may want to simply send you their contact information and wait for more information. We recommend that you include multiple ways for participants to get in touch with the study by including a phone number, email address, and a simple pre-screener form on your study website. 

To help study teams create high-quality pre-screeners, we’ve gathered a few tips on how to make effective forms that are easy for participants to fill out.   (Thanks to Ruth Gebrezghi and the UCSF Priority Study for the inspiration!)

  1. Choose a secure platform. Always use a HIPAA-compliant platform such as Qualtrics or REDCap. To be clear: this is required (not a suggestion.)
  1. Add a “welcome” message. Give your potential participants some context for the purpose of this form by adding “welcome” text at the top of the form.  Here’s a basic template:

“Thank you for your interest in <<STUDY TITLE>>, a study about <<ONE SENTENCE STUDY DESCRIPTION>>. Please fill out the form below and we will contact you to discuss the study further and determine eligibility.” 

You can add a few more details if necessary—but be selective! It’s important to keep this text short and easy-to-understand.

  1. Keep screening questions brief. We suggest asking no more than 4 eligibility questions in the pre-screener—we want to make sure that people can complete this form quickly. If possible, save sensitive questions for later in the screening process.
  1. Give participants contact options. In addition to collecting names and contact information, you might consider adding the following fields/questions:
  • Preferred language
  • What is the best time to reach you?
  • Preferred Method of Contact
  • Other comments
  1. Ask for referral source. At the end, add a question to ask “How did you hear about the study?” This information will be very helpful in the long term as you evaluate effectiveness of different recruitment strategies.
  2. Add an "end of survey" message. After the respondent completes the form, they are likely eager to know what the next steps are. Use an "end of survey" message to let participants know when you will reach out to them, and study contact information in case they want to get in touch with you. You can also program an automated email to go out to the respondents when they complete the form with this information. (Instructions for Qualtrics here: Survey Termination - Qualtrics)
  3. BONUS TIP: Get feedback. Once you’ve drafted your form, ask someone who isn’t familiar with the study to complete the form.  Were there any questions that were difficult or unclear? Did it take longer than a few minutes to complete? If so, consider revising your form. 
  4. BONUS TIP #2 (added 4/10/20): Add Captcha verification.To prevent Spambots from filling out your form, add a Captcha verification question. Qualtrics offers this functionality within it's survey platform. Instructions are here