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Using online technologies to improve diversity and inclusion in cognitive interviews with young people.

  • Author(s): Upadhyay, Ushma D;
  • Lipkovich, Heather
  • et al.


We aimed to assess the feasibility of using multiple technologies to recruit and conduct cognitive interviews among young people across the United States to test items measuring sexual and reproductive empowerment. We sought to understand whether these methods could achieve a diverse sample of participants. With more researchers turning to approaches that maintain social distancing in the context of COVID-19, it has become more pressing to refine these remote research methods.


We used several online sites to recruit for and conduct cognitive testing of survey items. To recruit potential participants we advertised the study on the free online bulletin board, Craigslist, and the free online social network, Reddit. Interested participants completed an online Qualtrics screening form. To maximize diversity, we purposefully selected individuals to invite for participation. We used the video meeting platform, Zoom, to conduct the cognitive interviews. The interviewer opened a document with the items to be tested, shared the screen with the participant, and gave them control of the mouse and keyboard. After the participant self-administered the survey, the interviewer asked about interpretation and comprehension. After completion of the interviews we sent participants a follow-up survey about their impressions of the research methods and technologies used. We describe the processes, the advantages and disadvantages, and offer recommendations for researchers.


We recruited and interviewed 30 young people from a range of regions, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, education, and experiences with sexual activity. These methods allowed us to recruit a purposefully selected diverse sample in terms of race/ethnicity and region. It also may have offered potential participants a feeling of safety and anonymity leading to greater participation from gay, lesbian, and transgender people who would not have agreed to participate in-person. Conducting the interviews using video chat may also have facilitated the inclusion of individuals who would not volunteer for in-person meetings. Disadvantages of video interviewing included participant challenges to finding a private space for the interview and problems with electronic devices.


Online technologies can be used to achieve a diverse sample of research participants, contributing to research findings that better respond to young people's unique identities and situations.

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