The purpose of this review is to describe the state of the art in recruiting participants for clinical trials designed to test new methods of treatment or disease prevention. The ultimate objective of this review is to provide a summary of key issues in recruiting diverse populations into clinical trials, particularly ethnic and racial minorities. An overview of general issues related to clinical trial participation is followed by a detailed discussion of specific issues that must be addressed by investigators as they recruit minority populations for clinical trial. To date, the majority of clinical trials have included a limited segment of the U.S. population: middle-class, married white males. These trials have faced many problems in their efforts to recruit participants, including barriers to physician participation, barriers to subject participation, barriers to planning and implementing effective recruitment strategies, and costs of the recruitment phase of clinical trials. Following this general introduction is a discussion of the definition of diverse populations. The first step investigators must take as they prepare to recruit study participants is to develop a relevant definition of the subject populations. A detailed review of investigators' experiences in recruiting minorities into clinical trials is presented, including barriers to minority recruitment, barriers inherent in study design, researcher bias, barriers to minority physician participation, as well as strategies for minority recruitment, modifications of study design, and cost issues. Formal evaluation of recruitment strategies has been limited. Most investigators present descriptive reports of their experience in recruiting diverse populations into clinical trials. Research into the issues presented and rigorous testing of specific strategies is needed. A series of steps that are essential to effective clinical trials recruitment of diverse populations is presented.