New Orleans. One of the best cities on the planet. I’m gushing because I just got back. First, go there. Second, I had a nostalgic moment I need to write about.
Technology is now an intregal part of travel. We can’t go anywhere without staring at our phones wondering where to walk, eat, drink, or discover. I admit I’m right there with you. On my last day there I had no time to make any plans so I actually put my phone in my pocket (gasp!) and decided to walk around the neighborhood. In a span of 15 minutes, I found a great museum, an all you can eat Cajun lunch joint, the best record store in the city, and a coffee shop with the best patio. All of these places were a five minute walk from me….and I didn’t know it because they were buried in a long list of “great places to visit in New Orleans.”
And now I had to catch a plane.
Technology is great. Searching for your participants is a lot harder if it isn’t around. But sometimes (and especially when you start a search), you need to turn off your device and look at the physical world around you. Getting the lay of the land and talking to a few locals will give you information that’s not on the internet.
It’s also good to smell the roses.
Searching in public records seems pretty straight forward. The site will give you several criteria to choose from including name, social security number, address and phone. Just throw in the info you have and let it roll.
What if your results are subpar, minimal or nil? Search is over, right?
Wrong. You only glimpsed the tip of the iceberg.
Many believe public records databases are well organized, and thus, simple pickings. Not true. Records enter into databases sideways, upside down, in reverse, and many times, in pieces. Because of this, it would take way too much time to organize all of them. There are stragglers all over the place. Sometimes these stragglers contain the most recent information of the person you’re tracking.
The key is manipulate the data as much as you can. It’s how I found over 900 drug addicts in a ten year follow up study. They gave very scant and often inaccurate information. However, I still worked the databases to draw out their true identities and current information.
It takes a certain brain to pull it off. But the most important thing to know is you’re only looking at the tip of the iceberg.
Social media is a form of publishing personal information. Not just sharing, publishing. If your participants choose to publish information for the world to see, it can be used to locate them.
I once read about a bondsman looking for a client who violated parole. He had a warrant for her arrest. He found her Facebook page and saw that she planned to attend a picnic at a certain park on Saturday afternoon. I think you can probably guess the ending to this story.
Today it is even easier to find people because people publish many aspects of their lives (too much if you ask me), completely free of charge. If it will help your project reduce research attrition, go for it.