Recruit Participants for Usability Testing

The User Research Center (URC) can provide consultations on what types and how many participants to recruit for your studies. We use a variety of recruitment approaches included:

  • Targeted email recruiting; we provide templates and best practices. See examples in the UX wiki.
  • On the spot recruiting for informal testing; we provide a list of locations on-campus and information on how to reserve space. See examples in the UX wiki.
  • If you’re interested in recruiting users of assistive technology for testing for accessibility, please email for more information.
  • Recruiting from the HSA/URC Participant Pool. See further details below.

HSA/URC Participant Pool Overview

The URC works with Harvard Student Agencies (HSA) to manage a participant pool of Harvard students who are interested in participating in usability testing, focus groups, and other user research activities. There are 106 graduate students and 538 undergraduate students in the pool. Participants can be recruited by their year, academic concentration, or usage of mobile devices.

Students can be hired for $35/hr (*Note: price subject to change) which covers payment for their time and time the HSA will spend recruiting and coordinating scheduling participants. Students will be paid through the HSA and your department/project can pay the invoice from HSA directly with a credit card. If you only have a 30-minute study, you may consider partnering with another department or running 2 studies during the hour to make the most of your time with students.

If you’d like to recruit participants for a study, please contact the URC at and we will help coordinate recruitment. 

If you are interested in training or consulting from URC staff members, please contact to discuss your project needs. The URC lab space can also be booked for your test sessions. Read more information about the URC

HSA Participant Pool Combined Data

The study pool consists of 644 total students. 106 of them are graduates while 538 of them are undergraduates.

Pie chart showing 84% undergraduates and 16% graduates in the pool.

Bar chart showing 106 graduates and 538 undergraduates.

About 78% of the students have at least one iPhone while around 22% have at least one Android. Less than 1% either don't have a smartphone or have a Windows phone.

Pie chart showing 78% iPhone, 22% Android, and less than 1% Windows Phone/other

Bar chart showing 503 iPhone, 138 Android, 2 No Smartphone, and 3 Windows Phone

Around 60% of students don't own tablets while 28% have iPads. The remaining 12% either have an Android, Windows, or other tablet.

Pie chart showing 60% do not own tablets, 28% own iPads, 5% own Android, 5% own Windows, and 2% own other

Bar chart showing 146 iPads, 25 Android, 29 Windows, 10 Other, 310 None

HSA Participant Pool Undergraduate Only Data

Of the 538 undergraduates, around 44% of them are freshman. The other 30% are sophomores while the remaining 26% is roughly split between juniors and seniors.

Pie chart showing 44% 2021, 30% 2020, 16% 2019, 10% 2018

Bar chart showing 281 2021, 194 2020, 102 2019, 67 2018

The concentrations seem to be a microcosm of Harvard, with economics, computer science, and government being the top majors.

a bar chart with the breakdown of undergraduate concentrations in the pool.

HSA Participant Pool Graduate Only Data

The largest amount of graduate students come from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. The remainder largely come from the Divinity School (27%), Division of Continuing Education (14%), and Kennedy school (11%). 

Pie chart of graduate schools

Bar chart of graduate school affiliation

Recruiting and Incentives

Need ideas for email templates, recruiting methods, or incentive ideas? We have additional resources available on the UX Wiki for help, or email us at for assistance.