What Causes Research Fatigue to Occur?
Three common themes have been identified as influential in either positively or negatively affecting an individual’s willingness to participate in a research project:
Alignment of interest and/or mutual benefit
If the people being researched are not interested in parts or all of the project - if the project is not relevant for them - research fatigue may arise. Once initiated, engagement with un-interested participants may be difficult to maintain.
In addition, lack of mutual benefit (benefit for both the researchers and the research subjects) can be a barrier to engaging participants in the first place, and/or to continued participation. Even if change, as a result of involvement, is not an option, some type of reciprocal agreement should be arranged and honored. The inability to honor reciprocity may lead to hostility among participants.
Lack of perceived impact from past research projects
When research participants feel that their prior involvement in research projects did not impact their own circumstances or those of a wider population, they are less likely to participate in subsequent projects. Participants may become deterred if lack of positive change is apparent as the result of previous study engagement.
Participant engagement can also be affected by an individual or community’s wariness of outsiders. This may cause participants to treat outside researchers with suspicion, distrust, or even hostility.
Research participants may have strong negative association with researchers who visit for very short time periods and leave without a perceived benefit to the community they studied when community members expected both a long-term relationship and a tangible benefit.
In addition to these three themes, community partners can sometimes feel burdened by "obligations" to assist researchers with hotels, translation services, or other needs related to conducting social research.