Weekly Community Interviews With High-Risk Participants

To address several key questions in social science research, repeated interviews of individuals drawn from difficult populations are required. This article describes an approach for addressing the challenges associated with longitudinal interview studies, including locating research participants, obtaining reliable and valid interview data over time, and retaining participants across the course of the study. We applied this approach to conduct a study designed to identify changeable risk factors for violence among high-risk people with mental illness. To successfully conduct weekly interviews of these individuals in the community across a 6-month period, we developed a flexible and personalized interview format; carefully selected, trained, and supervised staff; and developed incentives to maximize participant retention. Each of these three steps is discussed as a guide for future longitudinal studies that involve interviewing difficult populations.