Aim To review strategies for successful recruitment in small-scale, qualitative research in primary care by exploring those used in a variety of settings and providing a reflective analysis of the strategies used in one such study.
Background Recruitment of participants in small-scale, qualitative research in primary care is problematic. Researchers need to be more aware of the issues involved, but there is little practical guidance available to help them devise efficient strategies for maximising recruitment.
Data sources This paper draws on a study conducted in the Highlands of Scotland examining the emotional wellbeing of pregnant and non-pregnant women. This was a qualitative study using diaries and interviews over a period of nine months. Ten women were recruited over a period of more than two years.
Review methods The author reviews the strategies for successful recruitment based on both a review of the available literature as well as the experience of one study.
Discussion Recruitment of subjects to a study is one of the major elements of a research proposal and requires significant effort, yet there is little to guide researchers through this difficult process. The challenge of recruitment is seldom debated and studies rarely report problems encountered or outline approaches that proved particularly successful. The importance of successful recruitment is discussed and the arguably typical recruitment difficulties encountered by researchers conducting a study in the Highlands of Scotland are outlined. The elements that comprised successful recruitment in this and other studies are appraised.
Conclusion Although focused specifically on recruitment in small-scale, qualitative studies in primary care, this paper raises broader issues about the recruitment of participants in all types of research. Recruitment has implications for the trustworthiness and dependability of the data and hence the findings of research. Despite this, there remains a lack of evidence about what enhances research recruitment, leaving researchers to rely on guesswork and anecdotes. In a climate of evidence-based practice, researchers should be encouraged to include a formal evaluation of recruitment strategies in their studies and to report their findings.
Implications for practice/research As recruitment has implications for the trustworthiness and dependability of research, researchers need to consider a wide range of recruitment strategies and include a formal evaluation of their recruitment strategies when reporting on their research.