Background: Recently, researchers have faced the challenge of conflicting recommendations for online versus traditional methods to recruit and interview older, sexual minority men. Older populations represent the cohort least likely to be online, necessitating the use of traditional research methods, such as telephone or in-person interviews. By contrast, gay and bisexual men represent a population of early adopters of new technology, both in general and for medical research. In a study of older gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer, we asked whether respondents preferred online versus offline methods for data collection. Given the paucity of research on how to recruit older gay and bisexual men in general, and older gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer in particular, we conducted an observational study to identify participant preferences when participating in research studies. Objective: To test online versus offline recruitment demographic data collection, and interview preferences of older gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer. Methods: Email blasts were sent from a website providing support services for gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer, supplemented with an email invitation from the web-host. All invitations provided information via the study website address and a toll-free telephone number. Study tasks included respondents being screened, giving informed consent, completing a short survey collecting demographic data, and a 60-75 minute telephone or Internet chat interview. All materials stressed that enrollees could participate in each task using either online methods or by telephone, whichever they preferred. Results: A total of 74 men were screened into the study, and 30 were interviewed. The average age of the participants was 63 years (standard deviation 6.9, range 48-75 years), with most residing in 14 American states, and one temporarily located overseas. For screening, consent, and the collection of demographic data, 97% (29/30) of the participants completed these tasks using online methods. For the interview, 97% (29/30) chose to be interviewed by telephone, rather than Internet chat. Conclusions: Older gay and bisexual men, when given choices, appear to prefer a mixed methods approach to qualitative investigations. For most aspects of the study, the older men chose online methods; the exception was the interview, in which case almost all preferred telephone. We speculate that a combination of the deeply personal nature of the topic (sexual effects of prostate cancer treatment), unfamiliarity with online chat, and possibly the subject burden involved in extensive typing contributed to the preference of telephone versus online chat. Recruitment of older men into this study showed good geographic diversity. We recommend that other qualitative researchers consider a mixed methods approach when recruiting older populations online.
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- Qualitative research