Problem: We recruit hundreds of people each year to participate in qualitative research studies, but the whole system was maintained using spreadsheets.
Solution: Built a database that improved the productivity of our recruiter and the quality of our recruitment efforts.
  • In active use for almost 5 years
  • More than 30 studies tracked
  • Maintains contact information for more than 400 study participants
  • Contains records for more than 500 study participations by more than 200 unique participants
Status: In Active Use
Skills Used: Microsoft Access; relational databases
Languages Used: Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)

Shortly after I joined the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, I started to realize that I was seeing many of the same participants in the studies I was running. I talked to our recruiter and realized that the “database” she had been using for years was really just a single table in a Microsoft Access database file. There were no forms, no queries, no reports. Just a spreadsheet with a column she could update to show the last time the participant had been in.

So I got to work building a proper database. The final product took several months of part-time work, but it has served us well for about 5 years now. In building the new database, I had several key functions in mind.

  1. It had to maintain a full study history of each participant, including all the studies they had participated in and whether they had received any negative feedback from the researcher (e.g., didn’t show up for their appointment).
  2. It had to make our recruiter’s job simpler by allowing the filtering if participants based on criteria requested by researchers, automating as much of the correspondence as possible, and maintaining a schedule.
  3. It had to include forms for data entry and reports for data lookup so our recruiter and the researchers in our office do not have to interact with tables
  4. It had to provide researchers with reports about the demographic makeup of their studies that they could use in writing reports

The current database does all of these things and more.  Our recruiter has learned to love the functionality, especially the automatic generation of confirmation and reminder emails to participants.  My main issue with the database is that I am not much of a graphic designer. The look leaves a lot to be desired, though it has improved since these screenshots were taken.

Below are some screenshots (Note: The names and information shown is not that of our participants)


Study Information Screen                                                 Participant Information Screen


 Screening Form                                                            Study Recruitment Screen


 Weekly Schedule Report                                                           Participant Feedback Form

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