Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 138–142 | Cite as

How to Find Chinese Research Participants: Use of a Phonologically Based Surname Search Method

  • Erin Yuet Tjam


The frequent use of non-representative, time-consuming and low hit rate sampling methods in the study of minority cultures is of concern. Given the increasing cultural diversity of the Canadian population and the growing Chinese population, a sampling method using phonological rules to distinguish Chinese surnames from non-Chinese ones was developed.

Chinese surnames, transcribed according to their pronunciations, follow specific phonological rules. A flowchart was developed using the inclusion and exclusion criteria derived from these rules. Methods to validate Chinese surnames (identified from telephone directory) were external reference source, expert panel, and telephone interview.

A total of 266 possible Chinese surnames were selected using the flowchart. External reference source validated 153 surnames, expert panel 53, and telephone interview 23. An overall hit rate of 86.1% (229/266) was achieved, reflecting the validity of the phonological criteria in identifying individuals with a Chinese surname from the general population.


L’utilisation fréquente de techniques d’échantillonnage non représentatives, fastidieuses et à faible taux de succès pour l’étude des cultures minoritaires est préoccupante. Vu la diversité culturelle grandissante de la population canadienne et la croissance de la population chinoise, nous avons élaboré une technique d’échantillonnage à base de règles phonologiques pour distinguer les noms de famille chinois des autres noms de famille.

Les noms chinois, transcrits selon leur prononciation, obéissent à des règles phonologiques précises. À partir de critères d’inclusion et d’exclusion dérivés de ces règles, nous avons mis au point un ordinogramme, puis validé des noms de famille chinois (trouvés dans l’annuaire du téléphone) au moyen d’un ouvrage de référence externe, d’un groupe d’experts et d’une entrevue téléphonique.

En tout, 266 noms pouvant être d’origine chinoise ont été sélectionnés à l’aide de l’ordinogramme. L’ouvrage de référence externe a permis d’en valider 153, le groupe d’experts, 53, et l’entrevue téléphonique, 23. Notre taux de succès global a été de 86,1 % (229/266), ce qui confirme la validité des critères phonologiques pour l’identification des personnes portant un nom de famille chinois dans la population.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin Yuet Tjam
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.St. Mary’s General HospitalKitchenerCanada
  2. 2.Department of Health Studies and GerontologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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