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Imposter Participants: Overcoming Methodological Challenges Related to Balancing Participant Privacy with Data Quality When Using Online Recruitment and Data Collection
In this paper we describe the lessons learned when untrustworthy participants were included in a qualitative interview study. In online research, participants can more easily misrepresent their identity and volunteer for studies even if they do not meet inclusion criteria. The term “imposter participant” refers to dishonest participants who completely fake their identities or simply exaggerate their experiences in order to participate in qualitative studies. Untrustworthy participants are a threat to data quality, yet little has been published on how qualitative researchers should prevent and handle this unique methodological challenge. In this paper, we provide a detailed account of how specific issues with the research design create methodological challenges related to participant honesty when participants self-identify as meeting study inclusion criteria and participate in a virtual interview. Through our experiences as a doctoral student and dissertation supervisor, we offer lessons learned relating to recruiting online participants, collecting virtual interview data, and analyzing data for a qualitative study. Our experiences and reflections might help other qualitative researchers, including doctoral candidates and their supervising committees, work with internal review boards to prevent imposter participants and thereby contribute to the trustworthiness of their research.
online recruitment, virtual interviews, qualitative methods, participant honesty, trustworthiness
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Recommended APA Citation
Roehl, J. M., & Harland, D. J. (2022). Imposter Participants: Overcoming Methodological Challenges Related to Balancing Participant Privacy with Data Quality When Using Online Recruitment and Data Collection. The Qualitative Report, 27(11), 2469-2485. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2022.5475
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