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Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research is a term that covers a range of data collection methods, for example interviews, focus groups, observation, recordings (audio or video) and documents. It is often used to explore in-depth a problem or phenomenon, to gain a deeper understanding and greater insight.

Why you may want to include qualitative research methods

  • to develop, test and evaluate a complex intervention;
  • to support, enhance and explain the findings from quantitative approaches, for example in a feasibility, pilot or randomised controlled trial;
  • to develop and test data collection tools, such as outcome measures or questionnaires;
  • to conduct exploratory work, for example, to gain a greater understanding of an issue before embarking on a larger study.

What expertise can a qualitative adviser offer?

  • guidance on whether qualitative research is appropriate and useful for your research project;
  • explain how qualitative research might fit alongside other approaches;
  • advice about the appropriate research design, methods, potential ethical issues and the resources you would need to undertake qualitative research;
  • suggest key qualitative research literature to support your application.

What to think about before meeting with a qualitative adviser

  • whether your research question, or elements within it, could be answered using qualitative research methods;
  • would the addition of a qualitative research enhance and improve.

Useful Resources

Research Design Service Yorkshire and Humber ‘Introduction-to-qualitative-research-2009’

Barbour R (2001) ‘Checklists for improving rigour in qualitative research: A case of the tail wagging the dog?’ British Medical Journal 322, 1115-7.

Finlay L (2006) ‘”Rigour”, “Ethical integrity” or ‘”Artistry”? Reflexively reviewing criteria for evaluating qualitative research’ British Journal of Occupational Therapy 69 (7) 319-26,

Pope C and Mays N (eds) 2006 Qualitative Research in Health Care (3rd edn) London: BMJ books.