ASIS&T 2013 Annual Meeting 
Montréal, Québec, Canada | November 1-5, 2013

Participant Reactivity in a Longitudinal Mixed-Method Study of the Information Behavior of People with Type 2 Diabetes: Research Validity vs. “Street Validity”

Beth St. Jean, University of Maryland

Tuesday, 8:30am


Participant reactivity – a phenomenon in which the responses and/or behaviors of study participants are affected by their awareness that they are part of a study – is often deemed to be a potential threat to the research validity of the findings of a study. However, a growing number of studies report that research processes that engender participant reactivity may actually lead to important benefits both for participants (e.g., therapeutic benefits) and researchers (e.g., deeper understandings and more relevant and actionable findings). This mutually beneficial situation can help to maximize a different type of validity termed “street validity” by Greenwood (as cited in Boudah & Lenz, 2000; 2003), which directly relates to research impact.

This paper reports findings from a longitudinal mixed-method investigation of the information behavior of people with type 2 diabetes, with a focus on participants’ self-reports regarding whether/how they felt that participating in the study had influenced (or will influence) their behavior. Many participants described very specific ways in which they found their participation helpful. For example, they reported that their participation led to decreased denial, increased self-awareness, and improved motivation to look for and make use of diabetes-related information. This paper explores the potential trade-off between research validity and street validity within a qualitative study and posits that, as was the case with this study, important lessons can be learned as a result of questioning participants about the influence of their study participation and that these lessons can perhaps be implemented within the context of assisting other people from the study population.