Qualitative Research Methods: What Are They and Why Use Them?

Robert P. Luciano Professor of Health Care Policy, School of Public Affairs, Baruch College, New York, New York 10010, USA.
Health Services Research (Impact Factor: 2.78). 01/2000; 34(5 Pt 2):1101-18.
Source: PubMed


To provide an overview of reasons why qualitative methods have been used and can be used in health services and health policy research, to describe a range of specific methods, and to give examples of their application.
Classic and contemporary descriptions of the underpinnings and applications of qualitative research methods and studies that have used such methods to examine important health services and health policy issues.
Qualitative research methods are valuable in providing rich descriptions of complex phenomena; tracking unique or unexpected events; illuminating the experience and interpretation of events by actors with widely differing stakes and roles; giving voice to those whose views are rarely heard; conducting initial explorations to develop theories and to generate and even test hypotheses; and moving toward explanations. Qualitative and quantitative methods can be complementary, used in sequence or in tandem. The best qualitative research is systematic and rigorous, and it seeks to reduce bias and error and to identify evidence that disconfirms initial or emergent hypotheses.
Qualitative methods have much to contribute to health services and health policy research, especially as such research deals with rapid change and develops a more fully integrated theory base and research agenda. However, the field must build on the best traditions and techniques of qualitative methods and must recognize that special training and experience are essential to the application of these methods.

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    • "ETA (2008) and others identify both advantages and disadvantages of focus groups. Since a FG is composed of a homogenous group, it saves time and allows participants to communicate openly (Basch, 1987; ETA, 2008; Morgan, 1996; Sofaer, 1999). In addition, FGs are relatively easy to set up; the group dynamic can provide useful information that individual data collection does not provide; and they are useful in gaining insight into a topic that may be more difficult to gather through other data collection methods. "
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    International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 05/2015; 5(4):44-53.
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    • "The purpose of the document data collection was to gather and analyse adequate content from a wide range of official or semi-official sources containing 'traces' of the by guest on April 8, 2015 Downloaded from investigated phenomenon and relevant events (Sofaer, 1999: 1109). Therefore their quantification is neither applicable nor appropriate. "
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    • "An evaluation study is broadly defined as any type of research ''that uses standard social research methods for evaluative purposes, as a specific research methodology , and as an assessment process that employs special techniques unique to the evaluation of social programs'' (Powell 2006, p. 102). This definition includes both formative and summative evaluations that employ either quantitative, qualitative, or mixed method studies that use a variety of evaluative techniques (Palinkas et al. 2011; Powell 2006; Sofaer 1999; Steckler 1989). Third, the study had to be peer reviewed and published in English between 1990 and August 2013. "
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