Researching with Young People As Participants: Issues in Recruitment

Sunday, 27 July 2014: 3:35 PM

Ainsley M. James, BN, GradCertPaeds, GradCertHigherEd, MN
School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, CHURCHILL, 3842, Australia


An essential element of human research is the successful recruitment of participants, because without participants there can be no research. Many researchers appear to be able to recruit participants quickly and without significant issues, while other researchers encounter challenges. When researching the lived experience of young people aged 16-24 years, with type 1 diabetes living in a rural setting, we assumed that gaining ethics approval to interview the 16-18 year old participants would be a challenge. Ethics approval was granted following minimal changes to the application. Participant recruitment however presented a significant challenge. This paper presents some issues we encountered when recruiting participants for this phenomenological research project. Insights and strategies are presented to assist researchers when recruiting young people to their research.


Recruitment of participants began with advertisements in organisations such as medical clinics and community health centres that employed a paediatrician and/or a diabetic educator. Permission was also sought from Diabetes Australia to provide information of the research project in their communications (i.e. newsletters) to clients and families who met the selection criteria. When potential participants responded to the invitation, an explanatory statement and consent form were provided and any questions were answered. Once consent was obtained, a mutually agreeable time and place was arranged for the interview to be conducted. After little success in recruiting participants further organisations were contacted; a regional tertiary institution, a government department, additional medical clinics, organisations specific to type 1 diabetes including Diabetes Victoria and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and a number of social networking sites. As a result of recruiting no participants, it became apparent that an additional recruitment strategy was required to reach the 16-24 year old age group and successfully recruit them to the research. Traditional recruitment techniques were rethought and adjusted to entice and encourage 16-24 year olds to contact the researchers. In today’s technologically advanced society and with the age group sought for this research, utilising social networking became a viable option


Our experiences from the recruitment phase of this research have led us to insights and recommendations for improvement in relation to recruiting young people to a project. The insights and recommendations include; the importance of knowing your participant/s, the relevance and use of the traditional poster/flyer, and also in addressing the questions of: ‘What’s in it for me? Why would I want to contact a stranger?’ 


Recruitment of participants can make or break a research project and also influence the quality of the final outcomes. Knowing the where and how to recruit participants is essential for quality research. This paper has discussed the issues we experienced while recruiting participants for a phenomenological research study, investigating the lived experience of young people with type 1 diabetes living in a rural setting. From our experience the utilisation of the social network medium Facebook was a successful strategy for recruiting young people to research. Suggestions from our insights have been offered to researchers for recruiting young people to their projects.