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Logo of bmcmrmBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Medical Research Methodology
BMC Med Res Methodol. 2012; 12: 45.
Published online 2012 April 4. doi:  10.1186/1471-2288-12-45
PMCID: PMC3347989

Recruitment using mobile telephones in an Irish general population sexual health survey: challenges and practical solutions



Non-coverage of households without a landline telephone is a major concern of telephone survey researchers. Sampling mobile telephone users in national surveys is vital in order to gain access to the growing proportion of households that use mobile telephones extensively or exclusively. The complex logistics of conducting surveys with mobile telephones have been discussed in the literature. This paper outlines the actual challenges encountered during a recent national sexual health survey in Ireland, which utilized a mobile telephone sampling frame to recruit approximately half of the sample.


The 2010 Irish Contraception and Crisis Pregnancy Survey (ICCP-2010) is a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18-45 years living in Ireland (n = 3002; 1416 recruited by landline telephone and 1586 recruited by mobile telephone). The overall response rate for the survey was 69% (79% for the landline telephone strand; 61% for the mobile telephone strand). All interviews were conducted using computer-assisting telephone interviewing.


During the 18-week fieldwork period, five main challenges relating to the use of mobile telephones were encountered: (1) explaining to respondents how random digit dialling works in relation to mobile telephones; (2) establishing the respondent's eligibility; (3) calling the respondent with the Caller ID blocked or withheld; (4) calling the respondent when they are in any number of locations or situations; and (5) explaining to respondents the importance of refusal conversion calls for the response rate calculation. Details of how the survey protocols and procedures were monitored and adapted throughout the study to ensure a high response rate are outlined.


It is undeniably more challenging to recruit respondents using mobile telephones as opposed to landline telephones. Respondents are generally not familiar with being contacted on their personal mobile telephone for the purposes of being recruited for a research study. The main challenge for survey methodologists and interviewers is to devise simple protocols to explain to respondents why they are being contacted on a mobile telephone. Recommendations for survey researchers interested in using this methodological approach in the future are discussed.

Keywords: Mobile telephones, Surveys, Methodology, Health, Sampling

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