Collecting daily information from nearly 150 participants is tricky. Find out why the team at WFU turned to text messages to facilitate their research.
Many psychological studies are based on retrospective data. In these sort of studies, researchers ask participants questions like, “What happened to you a year ago, and how do you feel about it?” Try remembering exactly what you did yesterday. Now the day before that. What about Monday of last week? Unless you have a perfect memory, trying to recall what happened to you even just a few days ago can be tricky. There are a lot of things that can get in the way of giving a clear picture of your past.
Now, researchers are turning to another method called ESM, or the experience sampling method. This involves asking participants to recording their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the moment. Think of it like a diary. Recording data this way can more accurately capture what people experience in their day-to-day lives. With this information, researchers can determine how people’s in-the-moment experiences affect long term character trait changes. And this is exactly what researchers at the psychology department at Wake Forest University are studying.
Sending Surveys by Text
Wake Forest University is a private university located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In September 2018, U.S. News & World Report ranked Wake Forest as one of the top 30 National Universities for the 23rd consecutive year. Ashley Hawkins Parham is the program coordinator for a 10-month long research project that’s currently being conducted by the WFU department of psychology.
“Your recollection isn’t always very reliable,” she explains. “By texting people, they get the message right away, and we can ask them about their experience in the last 30 minutes.”
Of course, a reliable study requires a large sample size. This means sending hundreds of texts every day. Before beginning the study, Ashley’s team searched for a platform that would facilitate sending multiple messages per day to nearly 150 research participants. After comparing several services, they decided on SimpleTexting.
“We only needed it for 9 months, so it was awesome that there was a month to month option with no contracts,” says Ashley.
Customizing Messages to Participants
The study consists of sending two surveys per day to each participant. Of course, writing out hundreds of messages can be time consuming. With SimpleTexting, users can duplicate campaigns with a single click. This feature, along with the ability to schedule campaigns in advanced, helped saved Ashley time.
“It’s a lot of messages to pre-write, but all I have to do is copy the campaign, change the date, and then select the contact list I want the message to go to.”
In order to access the survey link, participants must login with a unique ID number. If someone were to forget their ID, it could make it difficult for them to take the survey in a timely manner. Our custom fields feature allows Ashley to import the participants’ ID numbers from a CSV file and include them right in the text.
Ashley and her team aren’t the only ones who are using text messages to send surveys. SMS has a higher open rate and click-through rate compared to other marketing channels such as email. “We’ve had a really good completion rate. I’ve been really impressed with the amount of people who complete our surveys,” says Ashley.
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