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The challenges of undertaking (qualitative) research on a military population
  1. Elizabeth MM Bernthal
  1. Correspondence to Lt Col Elizabeth MM Bernthal, Academic Department of Military Nursing, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (Research and Academic), ICT Centre, Birmingham Research Park, Vincent Drive, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2SQ, UK; SenResFellow.ADMN{at}


Undertaking primary research with a sample of serving personnel and their families is exciting, but raises specific challenges that may not be apparent when undertaking research with a civilian population. This paper explores the issues to be considered when developing the design, obtaining ethical clearance, undertaking the literature review, recruitment, sampling, data collection and analysis for a military study. It advises of the importance of undertaking the literature review, gives guidance on how to maximise recruitment by targeting locations that potential participants frequent, how to reduce the risk of coercion as well as the role of military clearance. The article also discusses reflexivity and highlights the importance of critical self-analytical scrutiny in order to identify whether the experience and role of the researcher has influenced the study. It concludes that taking time to plan the design and delivery of the study should help novice researchers to ensure that their research progresses smoothly.


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