Policy on the Solicitation of Research Participants Over APAGS Email Lists

Outside research requests or requests for research participants will not be posted to email lists maintained by APA.

Research that samples via email list postings relies on flawed and indefensible methodology. Research that must discuss and defend its sample, the population, response rates and representativeness or generalizability of the data would be hampered in these pursuits by using mailing lists.


  • Email lists (Division and other APA discussion lists) make no claim to be exhaustive collections of members who may fit into one or more specific category (e.g., clinical psychologists practitioners, educators, and so on). In fact some 45% of APA members do NOT belong to any one Division. By using a Division as the "universe" for one's respondents, researchers are excluding a large number of eligible participants and hence may be introducing bias into their research.

  • Many members belong to more than one Division, and if the research is being sent to more than one Division, the researcher faces the problem of defining response rate given duplication.

  • APA members and others belong to Divisions and topical email lists for a number of reasons, some of these may not reflect the fact that the member works in the area covered by the Division or list in any more than a tangential sense - raising questions about the suitability of the sample to the research.

  • Concern was raised as to whether the APA could be seen as condoning this poor methodology by allowing these requests to be posted.

These weaknesses in sampling can cast serious doubt on the defensibility and worth of research that was conducted using email lists. Cases in which Division electronic mail lists would be a good choice as a source for respondents include projects that are looking at how the Division (or APA offices) serves the members, or why members may have joined, among other Division specific questions.

Please contact APAGS with any questions related to this policy.