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AimTo guide researchers who are contemplating embarking on research by discussing the methodological challenges encountered in a retrospective follow-up study of three-year-old, late preterm infants (LPIs) who received neonatal intensive care (NIC) in Northern Ireland in 2006.BackgroundThe importance of effective research examining the longer term outcomes of infants admitted to NIC has received increasing recognition. Follow-up cohort and longitudinal studies have grown in number globally, yet the research methodology relating to follow up of NIC graduates is unclear.Data sourcesNeonatal Intensive Care Outcomes and Research Evaluation (NICORE) database; maternity unit delivery records.Review methodsThis is a reflective-practice methodology paper.DiscussionThis paper highlights the methodological challenges of conducting retrospective follow-up research, from the initial planning stages through to the collection of data from the children, including identification of infants from a retrospective database, ethical issues, child-safety concerns and recruitment challenges.ConclusionThe important lessons learned from this study were that: Input from a multidisciplinary team is central to the success of the study. Protocols and guidelines should be in place before the study to ensure that problems are dealt with quickly. A realistic timeframe for each phase and ongoing monitoring of recruitment rates are essential.Implications for research/practiceThis paper creates an awareness of potential issues that may arise in follow-up research with NIC graduates. The paper also offers practical and effective examples of dealing with these issues, helping to ensure the smooth running of an ethical, professionally conducted, methodologically sound and clinically relevant follow-up study.

Original publication




Journal article


Nurse researcher

Publication Date





37 - 43


School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen's University, Belfast.


Humans, Intensive Care, Neonatal, Retrospective Studies, Follow-Up Studies, Peer Review, Research, Nursing Research, Research Design, Patient Selection, Informed Consent, Infant, Newborn, Infant, Premature, Northern Ireland