Purpose To explore the perspectives of cancer care centre users on participation in psychosocial research to inform research design and ethics. Methods The study is based on a qualitative research design. Fourteen semistructured interviews were carried in people diagnosed with cancer and carers. The interview included four main questions about practical barriers to participation, types of research design, motivating factors and the conduct of research in a cancer care support setting. The data were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Results Interviewees demonstrated a willingness to participate in psychosocial research within certain circumstances. There were no practical barriers identified, although they considered payment for research-related travel important. The most acceptable research design was the face-to-face interview and the least preferred was the randomised control trial. The factors that motivated participation were altruism, valuing research, and making a contribution to the centre. Interviewees supported the conduct of research in cancer care support centres conditional upon delaying recruitment during the initial months of users' visits and its need to be discreet to avoid deterring visitors from accessing the centre. Conclusions The study concludes that the personal interaction between participants and researchers is the most important feature of decision-making by patients/carers to join studies. Taking into account the perspectives of people affected by cancer during the early stages of research design may enhance recruitment and retention and can contribute to the development of research protocols and ethics. © 2011 Springer-Verlag
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