Information sheet 15
Qualitative research is becoming more widely valued and recognised in the health care research field. The importance of qualitative research was established in the early 20th Century as a form of inquiry for the study of human group life, particularly in the fields of sociology and anthropology. Qualitative research aims to generate further research and theories rather than to verify them. It relies on transforming information from observations, reports and recordings into data into the written word (rather than into numeric data in quantitative research). Qualitative research is useful for finding out information in areas where little information is known, or to study a particular concept in more detail. A qualitative research study usually involves fewer people or events in comparison to a quantitative research study. Qualitative research is about ‘discovery of facts’ and not necessarily hard evidence. Some studies, particularly anthropological studies, are located in a time and place and the findings may not be seen as generalisable but the findings may be transferable.
Types of Qualitative Research
There are several different methods used in qualitative research. Phenomenological research is a method used to establish the meaning of an event for people (e.g. pain, bereavement). Its main purpose is to find the out what the essence of the experience was. Data is usually collected via interviews, focus groups or written diaries. Grounded theory is the generation of theory from data. The researcher starts with a general research subject and builds their research question as they collect data allowing the research question to emerge and develop with the collection of the data at the same time as developing theory. Data collection maybe in the form of interviews, participant observation and documentation review. Ethnographic research involves placing specific encounters, events and understanding into fuller and more meaningful context. It combines research design fieldwork and various other methods of inquiry to produce accounts, descriptions interpretations and representations of human lives, cultures and sub-cultures set in a specific time and place. Ethnographic researchers are required to observe the participants without prejudice or prior assumptions. Its main methods of data collection are in participant observation, unstructured interviews and examination of documents. The data is presented in the form of ‘thick description’ (transcriptions from field notes and quotations from interviews) and is presented in the form of ethnography (a text). Action research can be described as a family of research methodologies that pursue action (or change) and research (or understanding) at the same time. It does this by using a cyclic or spiral process which alternates between action and critical reflection and in the later cycles, continuously refining methods, data and interpretation in the light of the understanding developed in the earlier cycles. Historical research method is a procedure used to establish the facts about an event/conditions of interest, which happened in the past. Data can be collected in the form of observations, interviews e.g. people who were part of that history i.e. World War Two veterans, and examination of documents e.g. Archaeological research, research into historical events, artefacts, and old documents. Education Centre, The Hillingdon Hospital. Tel: 01985 279021. Ext. 3021 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information sheet 15
Narrative – Based on the perspective that we construct narratives or stories (an organised interpretation of a sequence of events with a beginning a middle and an end) to make sense of and to organise an ever changing and unorganised world. By telling stories about our lives to others this develops our sense of self and our life. The primary source of data for narrative research is the interview describing a...
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