‘Getting Your Foot in the Door’: the Role of Serendipity, Heightened Sensitivity and Social Networks in Recruiting Education Research Participants

  • Louise Ryan
  • Magdolna Lőrinc


In this paper we propose the concept of heightened sensitivity to explain how serendipity may work on the context of recruitment for qualitative research. Drawing on our experiences of recruiting schools and young people at risk, we explain the obstacles encountered and the strategies we had to adopt to overcome these. As well as targeted networking we also encountered a good deal of luck – but is this pure chance or something more agential? We suggest the notion of heightened sensitivity to explain why certain opportunities seemingly come our way. We suggest that rather being purely accidental, there may be more of an agential role here than is at first apparent. Heightened sensitivity involves picking up on passing cues, or even subconsciously creating opportunities by instigating particular topics of conversation in specific social settings. In this way, we may open up fruitful avenues which would otherwise have lain dormant and unexplored.