Orientation: Nurse recruitment to and participation in empirical research is increasingly important in understanding and improving nursing practice. However, the low participation and recruitment rate amongst nurses is not well understood. Research purpose: The aim of this study was to evaluate three research recruitment methods for their impact on recruitment and participation rates amongst South African nurses. Motivation for the study: A limited number of studies exist that formally evaluates different recruitment strategies to improve participation in research amongst nurses within developing contexts, especially South Africa. Research approach, design and method: Participants were recruited using three different methods. Of the 250 nurses randomly selected and invited to participate in a cross-sectional survey, 201 agreed and 162 (81 ) returned the questionnaires. Main findings: Nursing management participation in the recruitment and data collection process produces more favourable response rates. Reminders and the use of shorter questionnaires also aid higher response rates. Practical/managerial implications: Reminders as well as face-to-face recruitment strategies (especially by a familiar person) successfully improved participation rates amongst South African nurses in this study. Contribution/value-add: This study identifies some strategies that could be used more widely to increase the recruitment and participation of South African nurses in research whilst potentially improving their work situation.