Engaging men with penile cancer in qualitative research: reflections from an interview-based study
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Engaging men with penile cancer in qualitative research: reflections from an interview-based study

Karl Witty Research officer, Centre for Men’s Health, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK
Peter Branney Senior lecturer in social psychology, School of Social, Psychological & Communication Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK
Kate Bullen Professor, Department of Psychology, Aberystwyth University, UK
Alan White Professor, Centre for Men’s Health, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK
Julie Evans Senior qualitative researcher, Department of Urology, St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, UK
Ian Eardley Consultant urologist, Department of Urology, St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, UK

Aim To explore the challenges of engaging men with penile cancer in qualitative interview research.

Background Qualitative interviewing offers an ideal tool for exploring men’s experiences of illness, complementing and providing context to gendered health inequalities identified in epidemiological research on men. But conducting interviews with men can be challenging and embarking on a qualitative interview study with males can feel like a daunting task, given the limited amount of practical, gender-sensitive guidance for researchers. Reflecting on a researcher’s experience of conducting qualitative research on men with penile cancer, this paper explores the potential challenges of interviewing this group, but also documents how engagement and data collection were achieved.

Review methods This is a reflective paper, informed by the experiences of a male researcher (KW) with no nurse training, who conducted 28 interviews with men who had been treated for penile cancer. The researcher’s experiences are reported in chronological order, from the methodological challenges of recruitment to those of conducting the interview.

Implications for practice/research The paper offers a resource for the novice researcher, highlighting some advantages and disadvantages of conducting qualitative interview research as a nurse researcher, as well as recommendations on how to overcome challenges.

Conclusion Engaging men with penile cancer in qualitative interview raises practical, methodological, ethical and emotional challenges for the researcher. However, when these challenges are met, men will talk about their health. Methodological procedures must enable an open and ongoing dialogue with clinical gatekeepers and potential participants to promote engagement. Support from colleagues is essential for any interviewer, no matter how experienced the researcher is.

Nurse Researcher. 21, 3, 13-19. doi: 10.7748/nr2014.01.21.3.13.e1218

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 02 January 2013

Accepted: 24 April 2013

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