Room for improvement? Reporting response rates and recruitment in nursing research in the past decade

J Adv Nurs. 2005 Sep;51(5):502-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2005.03521.x.


Aims: This paper reports an analysis of recruitment and response rates in published nursing research in three peer reviewed nursing journals in 2002. We wished to establish if the deficits in reporting nursing research identified a decade earlier had been addressed.

Background: This analysis was informed by our personal experiences of research which produced widely differing response rates. An examination of the literature revealed a lack of consensus on desirable response rates in nursing research. Previous analyses have shown deficits in describing participants, sampling methods and reporting recruitment.

Methods: Papers reporting empirical research in three nursing journals in 2002 were reviewed in terms of a number of variables including research methodology, respondent type, recruitment method, response rate, location, and data collection method. Nominal coding was used as necessary. Data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences and a variety of descriptive statistics were employed.

Results: Half of the papers did not report a response rate. Of those which did, over three-quarters of both qualitative and quantitative studies had response rates of 60% or more. Research conducted in hospital and educational settings produced higher response rates than those in community settings. Studies with response rates of less than 60% did not always refer to their rates in the study limitations, and low response rates do not appear to be a barrier to publication.

Conclusion: Reporting of sampling, recruitment and response rates in nursing research must be improved to support nursings' claim to be an evidence-based profession and to underpin clinical governance requirements. Only through improvements in the quality of nursing research publications can knowledge be extended and a better-informed research community be created.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Nursing Research / standards
  • Nursing Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Nursing Research / trends*
  • Patient Selection
  • Periodicals as Topic
  • Research Design
  • Sampling Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires