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The Medical Literature |

Users' Guides to the Medical Literature:  XXIII. Qualitative Research in Health Care
A. Are the Results of the Study Valid?

Mita K. Giacomini, PhD; Deborah J. Cook, MD, MSc; for the Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group
JAMA. 2000;284(3):357-362. doi:10.1001/jama.284.3.357.
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Quantitative research is designed to test well-specified hypotheses, determine whether an intervention did more harm than good, and find out how much a risk factor predisposes persons to disease. Equally important, qualitative research offers insight into emotional and experiential phenomena in health care to determine what, how, and why. There are 4 essential aspects of qualitative analysis. First, the participant selection must be well reasoned and their inclusion must be relevant to the research question. Second, the data collection methods must be appropriate for the research objectives and setting. Third, the data collection process, which includes field observation, interviews, and document analysis, must be comprehensive enough to support rich and robust descriptions of the observed events. Fourth, the data must be appropriately analyzed and the findings adequately corroborated by using multiple sources of information, more than 1 investigator to collect and analyze the raw data, member checking to establish whether the participants' viewpoints were adequately interpreted, or by comparison with existing social science theories. Qualitative studies offer an alternative when insight into the research is not well established or when conventional theories seem inadequate.

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