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Researching health behaviour in ‘real time’: methodological insights from a prospective study on Olympic hopefuls

Journal article
Authors Astrid Schubring
Natalie Barker-Ruchti
Anna Post
Stefan Pettersson
Published in Methodological Innovation
Volume 12
Issue 1
Pages 1-12
ISSN 20597991
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science
Pages 1-12
Language en
Keywords career; elite sport; qualitative longitudinal research; methodological challenges
Subject categories Sport and Fitness Sciences, Sociology


In this paper, we share our experience of navigating qualitative longitudinal research (QLR) with a ‘hard to recruit’ population. To detail design conception, methodological challenges and insights, we draw on the case of a one-year-long study on health behaviour in Olympic hopefuls. To accompany 12 athletes who aimed to qualify for either an Olympic Games (n=10) or a World Championship (n=2), we developed and implemented a career background questionnaire; semi-structured interviews; weekly web surveys; a training observation; and a compilation of competition results. Based on the longitudinal research experience, we present project management and project data to discuss the challenges we faced, including gaining access to an elite population, their retention and anonymity. We further outline insights the prospective study gave us on the value of missing data as data and on the benefits participants described in terms of learning through research involvement. We conclude with recommendations for future QLR research.

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