Recruiting General Practitioners in England to Participate in Qualitative Research: Challenges, Strategies, and Solutions


In 2012, I conducted my first PhD study exploring general practitioners’ attitudes toward online patient feedback. After designing the research questions and topic guide to conduct the interviews, I reviewed existing literature where authors described recruiting general practitioners to take part in research. I found there was some focus in the literature on the challenges associated with low general practitioner participation in survey-based and intervention studies, but little that described the process, experience, and challenges associated with recruiting general practitioners to take part in qualitative research.

Although general practitioners are known to be a difficult group to recruit to take part in research, the recruitment process I experienced was much more challenging than I had anticipated. This case study sheds light on my experience of recruiting 20 general practitioners in England to an interview-based study, and outlines a critical reflection on the eight strategies used for recruitment. I started by using traditional methods such as postal invitations and faxes to recruit general practitioners. Due to the very low success rate, I resorted to using more inexpensive and creative methods, such as sending an invitation letter through email, advertising in general practitioner Email Newsletters, seeking help from existing research networks, recruiting through friends and acquaintances, and using social media. In this case study, I also describe the participants’ (general practitioners’) motivations for taking part in the study, and I conclude with offering suggestions on how to maximize response rates to general practitioner-based qualitative studies in England.

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