This practice paper discusses the importance of being flexible towards and thoughtful about individual characteristics when collecting qualitative data from ‘at-risk’ groups in maternity care research. In addition, the valuable contribution of a multidisciplinary research team is emphasized. The authors (a consultant midwife and a health psychologist) argue that researchers have a responsibility to explore the cultural reasons for the success or failure of certain research methods. Drawing on their experience of researching women’s experiences of communication in antenatal care, the authors reflect on how inadequacies in the selection and use of data collection methods can result in several negative outcomes. These include low levels of identification of participants, low response rates, poor quality and misinterpretation of results. Suggestions for best practice when designing and conducting research are outlined, including the need to use cultural and local knowledge to evaluate the success of selected research methods.