Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Researching with Young People as Participants: Issues in Recruitment

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Researching with Young People as Participants: Issues in Recruitment

Article excerpt

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.

The research

The aim of the research was to explore, describe and understand the lived experiences of young people living in a rural setting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. A qualitative approach was implemented and underpinned by van Manen's (1990) method of phenomenological inquiry. Phenomenological inquiry was the most appropriate approach to explore and describe lived experience of this particular phenomenon, because the participants' stories of their experiences formed the text to be analysed, and essentially 'paint a picture' of what living with type 1 diabetes is actually like for this group of young people.

The intention was to recruit 15-20 participants. In a discussion paper which collated responses from almost 20 academic researchers, who attempted to answer the question: How many interviews is enough? the 'suggested' sample size for phenomenological research varied from study to study and ranged from 3 to 30 participants (Baker & Edwards, 2012). There is no prescribed number of participants, because in phenomenological research the focus is not so much on quantity, but on the quality or richness of the data collected and the process by which it is collected (Taylor & Francis, 2013). The methodological approach utilised in this research will not be addressed in this paper, rather the recruitment issues will be the focus.

Participants were chosen if they met the selection criteria of having type 1 diabetes, being male or female aged between 16 and 24 years, and living in a rural setting in Victoria, Australia. The age group was recruited purposively to explain or share their lived experience of having type 1 diabetes, which could possibly resonate with other young people in a similar situation.


The protection of participants in any research is absolute with all research involving humans undergoing strict peer review by ethics committees for human research. An ethics application was submitted to the University's ethics committee for human research and following some minor amendments, approval was granted 4 months later. Protecting vulnerable groups, such as young people, is essential for ethical research. To ensure all participants were not placed at risk, guidelines were considered relevant to age of consent, capacity of a young person to give informed consent and guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), specific to research involving children and young people. The age group encompassed participants identified as children (16-18 years of age) and adults (over 18 years of age).

In the event that the age of the participant prevented the giving of consent, the legal guardian/ parent was informed of the research and provided with the explanatory statement, consent form and further explanation. In Australia, children are able to voluntarily agree to participate in research before they reach legal autonomy at 18 years of age, that is giving assent, but the giving of consent is the parent/legal guardian's responsibility (Fraser, 2009). …

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