Locating research informants in a multi-ethnic community: ethnic identities, social networks and recruitment methods

Ethn Health. 2003 Feb;8(1):41-61. doi: 10.1080/13557850303558.


Objective: Recruitment of informants can 'make or break' social research projects, yet this has received little research attention. Drawing on our recent qualitative research into health and social capital in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood in South England, this paper presents a detailed analysis of the complexities encountered in recruiting research informants who described themselves as African-Caribbean, Pakistani-Kashmiri and white English.

Methods: Three methods of recruitment were used: (1) advertisements and articles in local media, (2) institutional contacts through local voluntary organisations and (3) interpersonal contacts, referrals and snowballing. We compare and contrast the experiences of ethnically matched interviewers who conducted research amongst the three aforementioned ethnic groups. These experiences were recorded by means of lengthy interviewer 'debriefing questionnaires' that focused on factors that had served to help or hinder them in finding research participants. These questionnaires formed the basis of a discussion workshop in which the interviewers and researchers sought to identify the factors impacting on the recruitment process.

Results: Our findings suggest that local advertisements and media contact worked best for recruiting members of the white English community in our South English town. Interpersonal contacts were crucial in recruiting Pakistani-Kashmiri informants. Institutional contacts were the most useful way of accessing African-Caribbean individuals.

Conclusion: We conclude that local ethnic identities and social networks produce qualitatively different responses to recruitment attempts in different communities. Such differences necessitate the employment of a range of recruitment methodologies and detailed formative research in a target community before commencing recruitment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Selection*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Support*
  • United Kingdom