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Participant experiences of an internet-based intervention and randomised control trial: interview study

Daniel Todkill1* and John Powell2

Author Affiliations

1 Warwick Medical School, The University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

2 Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, 23-38 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, OX1 2ET, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1017  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1017

Published: 28 October 2013



There are an increasing number of interventions being delivered online, and an expanding body of research to assess the effectiveness of such interventions. Yet, little is known about the motivations for participating in online research. Furthermore, internet interventions and online research studies are characterised by poor adherence and high attrition rates. This study aimed to explore participant motivations for taking part in an online trial of an internet intervention and the reasons for continuing.


Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with twenty members of the intervention arm of an internet-based randomised control trial evaluating an online cognitive behavioural tool to improve mental wellbeing. The qualitative interviews were analysed using the Framework Approach to identify themes and subthemes, through familiarization with the data, identifying a thematic framework, charting, indexing, mapping and interpreting the data.


A number of key themes emerged. Trusted brands were key to participants feeling secure in engaging with the trial due to the association with institutions such as the UK National Health Service and the lead University conducting the research. Participants had a number of motivations for signing up with the study; altruism, low mood and as a replacement for a physical health professional. Participants felt the need for the language used in the intervention to be tailored to them as individuals. The majority of those interviewed also described multiple benefits from the intervention, which could have been a reason for them to persist.


The nascent field of research on internet delivered healthcare needs to take account of participant views, as have been identified in this trial and future studies would benefit from applying its findings.