APA Refresh: How Should I Refer To My Anonymous Research Participants? -->

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APA Refresh: How Should I Refer To My Anonymous Research Participants?

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For some of your work at Walden, you may need to conduct surveys of your own participants. In these cases, you may be wondering—how should I refer to these research participants who want to remain anonymous? Do I need to cite them? Read on for some examples and APA tips on referring to the participants in your research.

APA Style Refresh: Anonymous Participants

You can use a variety of techniques to refer to research participants, and APA has some specific recommendations. According to the APAStyle Blog, these include but are not limited to: their roles, pseudonyms, initials, case numbers, or letters of the alphabet. The APA Style Blog also suggests that you can alter some characteristics to make participants less distinguishable, leave out some information about the participant, or combine participant statements into a composite participant. For more detailed examples, see section 1.11 of your APA manual, but I’ve also listed a few below.

Initials: CH stated that they “love writing and visiting the Writing Center”.

Numerals/Case Numbers: According to participant 7, an online student, “the Writing Center is the best.”

Composite Statement: Several survey participants indicated that they enjoy and plan to visit the Writing Center again in the future.

You may notice here that none of these examples are cited—this is to protect the anonymity of the participants and it is not necessary to cite your own anonymous research participants. If a participant would like to go on record, then you should use personal communication rules for referring to and citing that participant in text.

Keep these rules and handy resources below in mind if you’re conducting your own research and have anonymous participants.

Claire Helakoski author photo
Claire Helakoski is a writing instructor at the Walden Writing Center. Claire also co-hosts WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast. Through these multi-modal avenues, Claire delivers innovative and inspiring writing instruction to Walden students around the world. 
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