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Maintaining Privacy in Recruitment

Title: Maintaining Privacy in Recruitment

Author: Emily E. Anderson (based on a case in Kimberly Hoagwood, Peter S. Jensen, and Celia B. Fisher, Ethical Issues in Mental Health Research with Children and Adolescents, Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996)


You want to conduct research with recovering alcoholics and must consider how best to protect participant anonymity during recruitment.

Headings: Privacy and Confidentiality; Other privacy or confidentiality issues; Mental health disorders, participants with (including addictive disorders and developmental disabilities)

Case Type: Decision Making

Maintaining Privacy in Recruitment

You are a graduate student in nursing interested in comparing the coping strategies of alcoholics at different stages of recovery. You plan to conduct in-depth individual interviews with approximately six individuals at each of three stages of recovery. You plan to interview each individual on several occasions over a six-month period.

Based on the literature, you anticipate that recruiting subjects might be difficult, so consider partnering with several Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) programs through the city. You suggest recruiting in-person at AA meetings as the fastest way to recruit your target number. While the program leader you talked to was enthusiastic about helping you recruit, she also cited AA’s devotion to preserving participant anonymity and helping alcoholics with their drinking problems. She believed that in-person recruiting at an AA meeting would be intrusive and asked you to consider another strategy that might better protect participants’ privacy.


  • What do you propose?

See Hoagwood et al. (1996) for a discussion of how this case was addressed by the researchers.