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Open Access Research article

Procedures of recruiting, obtaining informed consent, and compensating research participants in Qatar: findings from a qualitative investigation

Amal Killawi1, Amal Khidir2, Maha Elnashar2, Huda Abdelrahim2, Maya Hammoud3, Heather Elliott4, Michelle Thurston1, Humna Asad2, Abdul Latif Al-Khal5 and Michael D Fetters1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA

2 Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Education City, PO Box 24144, Doha, Qatar

3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, L4000 Women’s, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA

4 Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA

5 Department of Medical Education, Hamad General Hospital, PO Box 3050, Doha, Qatar

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BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-9

Published: 4 February 2014



Very few researchers have reported on procedures of recruiting, obtaining informed consent, and compensating participants in health research in the Arabian Gulf Region. Empirical research can inform the debate about whether to adjust these procedures for culturally diverse settings. Our objective was to delineate procedures related to recruiting, obtaining informed consent, and compensating health research participants in the extremely high-density multicultural setting of Qatar.


During a multistage mixed methods project, field observations and qualitative interviews were conducted in a general medicine clinic of a major medical center in Qatar. Participants were chosen based on gender, age, literacy, and preferred language, i.e., Arabic, English, Hindi and Urdu. Qualitative analysis identified themes about recruitment, informed consent, compensation, and other research procedures.


A total of 153 individuals were approached and 84 enrolled; the latter showed a diverse age range (18 to 75 years); varied language representation: Arabic (n = 24), English (n = 20), Hindi (n = 20), and Urdu (n = 20); and balanced gender distribution: women (n = 43) and men (n = 41). Primary reasons for 30 declinations included concern about interview length and recording. The study achieved a 74% participation rate. Qualitative analytics revealed key themes about hesitation to participate, decisions about participation with family members as well as discussions with them as “incidental research participants”, the informed consent process, privacy and gender rules of the interview environment, reactions to member checking and compensation, and motivation for participating. Vulnerability emerged as a recurring issue throughout the process among a minority of participants.


This study from Qatar is the first to provide empirical data on recruitment, informed consent, compensation and other research procedures in a general adult population in the Middle East and Arabian Gulf. This investigation illustrates how potential research participants perceive research participation. Fundamentally, Western ethical research principles were applicable, but required flexibility and culturally informed adaptations.

Research ethics; Recruitment; Informed consent; Cultural competence; Middle East; Research participation; Vulnerability; Confidentiality; Qualitative research; Research compensation