Research Protocol


Soham Bandyopadhyay, BA (Hons)1

Jigishaa Moudgil-Joshi, BMedSci (Hons)2

Emma Jane Norton, BSc (Hons)3

Makinah Haq MBBS (Candidate)4

1Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 9DU

2The University of Edinburgh, 47 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh, EH16 4TJ

3St George’s, University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London, SW17 0RE

4GKT School of Medical Education, King’s College London, London, WC2R 2LS

Corresponding author:

Soham Bandyopadhyay



The Ottawa 2010 consensus declared that surgical specialties should produce a workforce broadly representative of the population they serve without compromising on the quality of the workforce1. Since then, the proportion of female NHS doctors has grown year on year. However, despite a narrowing of the gender gap, surgery continues to be predominantly male2. This is most evident in neurosurgery, trauma and orthopaedic surgery (T&O), and cardio-thoracic surgery, where only around 18% of the surgeons are female. Notably, the proportion of women in the latter two disciplines has increased in line with the majority of other medical specialities. This trend was not seen in neurosurgery2.Whilst there are significant barriers to the advancement of women in surgical careers3, the increasing use of social media for professional purposes4 could aid and benefit women passionate about neurosurgery to address some of the challenges that they face.

Previous attempts to attract women into surgery have been confounded by insufficient understanding of how best to approach this5. Research in this area typically involves using quantitative methods to investigate barriers women have faced in surgery. These methods have resulted in a list of contributory factors to women not entering or choosing to leave neurosurgery, such as insufficient role models, inflexible work environments, gender discrimination and harassment, sleep deprivation, and family responsibilities6,7. Whilst these methods have been excellent at describing the challenges faced by women in surgery, it has not been able to explain how to counter these challenges. Additionally, quantitative studies are not able to investigate phenomena that are not described in their fixed-choice surveys. Qualitative studies do not need to suffer from these limitations8. The richness of language paired with the researchers’ openness to paradoxical findings can answer problems in previously unthought of ways9. In addition, qualitative research is less likely to lead to assumptions as it does not rely on the use of measurement instruments that may be tacitly biased10.

This study will be qualitative in nature. It will focus on individuals’ expectations which are highly subjective and based on personal priorities11. Women interested in neurosurgery or currently practicing neurosurgery will be interviewed. The questions will be focussed around why they want to do neurosurgery/ are doing neurosurgery, perceived barriers, and the role social media can play. We will take a participatory qualitative approach12, where research subjects will be actively involved in the research process and the co-creation of understandings and potential solutions. All interviews will be recorded and reduced via manifest level coding to identify themes.

We aim to assess how social media could be used to incentivise women to apply to and remain within neurosurgery.



Qualitative approach will be employed to obtain the necessary data. Participants will be sent information about this project and asked for their consent to proceed. Interviews will only be conducted if participants have provided informed consent, including permission to record and transcribe the conversations. Collected data will be 1. recorded during the interviews, 2. Transcribed, 3. Analysed, 4. Labelled and coded, 5. Codes will be reduced to themes. Following the generation of themes, participants will be invited to check their own extracts related to each theme and delete portions if desired.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Inclusion: Women who are practicing neurosurgeons or want to become neurosurgeons.

Exclusion: Cannot speak English or Unable to attend interview

Data Collection

Data is collected through one on one interviews in person or by telephone. These interviews will be semi structured with a few pre-determined question prompts to guide the interviewee if need be. Leading questions will be avoided. Depending on emerging themes, these questions will be changed and altered. The semi structured interviews suit the study well and will follow the advice of Whiting in 200813.

Information Governance

The study will result in the following data sources: 

  • Recordings of interviews
  • Transcripts of the above

These data sources will be stored in accordance to Good clinical practise and the Data Protection Act 1998


This study is not funded.


Analysis Plan

Transcribing and coding will be done manually. Data will be reduced via manifest level coding to identify themes. Sub-group analysis depending on the stage of training of the women may be done.


The survey findings will be disseminated in national and international conferences, and peer-reviewed publications.


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  • NHS Digital. Narrowing of NHS gender divide but men still the majority in senior roles. Available from [Accessed 25th February 2020].
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  1. Whiting LS. Semi-structured interviews: Guidance for novice researchers. Nursing standard. 2008; 22(23), pp.35-40