Joining the PIL Volunteer Sample
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why should I join the PIL Volunteer Sample?
- How do you end up using the sample?
- How do you select a sample for a PIL study?
- Does my institution have to bear any of the costs of being in a study?
- What’s involved in being a research liaison?
- What do I get in return for participating in a PIL study?
If you want to participate in a PIL study, the best way for you to let us know of your interest is to join the PIL Volunteer Sample. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your institution's name, your name as the “research liaison,” and an undergraduate enrollment count. We will then add your institution to our map (see the home page of the PIL site for a map of the institutions in our sample). That’s it. We’re not real fancy at PIL—we’re small and we’re a grassroots public benefit nonprofit. Oops, one last thing. If, for some reason, you want to be removed from the sample at any point, let us know. We’re happy to accommodate this request.
When we get funding for a research study, we often put out a "call for participation" to the institutions in our volunteer sample. Sometimes institutions are in a position to volunteer and participate, and at other times, the timing does not work for them (e.g., a library construction project going on at the same time or survey fatigue from too much research going on at a campus). We fully expect and accept this as a condition of having a "volunteer" sample. PIL does not have you execute a contract—involvement in any PIL study is fully voluntary and at the discretion of the institution (e.g., research liaison, the director or dean of the library, and/or IRB). We make every effort to be highly collaborative and cooperative.
We start by pulling a “working sample” of institutions that have responded to our call for participation. Next, we balance all of our samples by geographic representation, the proportion of public vs. private vs. community colleges, and related factors of interest to us. It depends on the sample size we need, but in many cases, we often have more schools than we need. This means not all of the institutions with an interest in study participation are selected, but it does vary from one study to the next and the sample composition that we need.
There is no cost for institutions to participate in studies. PIL bears all of the costs associated with a study, from data collection to the production of the final paper. But we do ask the person who signed up to be our "contact," or who we call the PIL "research liaison," to contributes some time to the PIL effort. We figure that the research liaison usually spends about 5 - 6 hours, at most, of their time throughout the study.
The liaisons put a "local" face on our national study at each institution where we conduct research. In prior research projects, liaisons have helped identify who runs the IRB (internal review board/human subjects) process on a campus. In some cases, they have helped with lining up a room if we are conducting a focus group or interviews on site. Liaisons do not participate in collecting data. The PIL Research Team takes care of collecting data on your campus to avoid introducing bias into the results. Overall, liaisons end up spending 5 - 6 hours of their time helping us.
Data. We provide you with data about your institution that you would probably not collect and analyze on your own, let alone pay to have done. For each liaison's time and as a thank you, we provide a SPSS file of data results, a frequencies quick report of survey results, and a 2 to 3-page trends report with an overview of what we found. These reports provide the liaison with data about their individual school setting. The PIL report we publish on the PIL site, as you may have noticed, always aggregates data. We do not break out individual schools, but you will have a copy of your own school’s results if you participate.
Lastly, we think you get a chance to learn a little about social science research, while having the opportunity to participate in the most ambitious and extensive research study to date about today’s college students and their research habits in the digital age. Follow our progress at http://projectinfolit.org.