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Currently selected section: Introduction
Qualitative Methods
Data Techniques
Sampling
Analysis Techniques
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Chapter 7: Selected Qualitative Methods: Why Use Qualitative Methods
        

Quantitative methods are efficient, and you should use them whenever you can. Use qualitative methods to get information that you cannot obtain well with quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are used to study human behavior and behavior changes. Complex behavior is not well captured by quantitative techniques. Qualititative methods help you study the variations of complex, human behavior in context. By connecting quantitative data to behavior using qualitative methods, you can enrich your results with people’s words and actions. Using system process variables as your data, you can use qualitative methods to find patterns. These results can be hypothesis-generating or they may be used to test hypotheses. In qualitative research, the conceptual framework arises from the data rather than from preconceived hypotheses. Qualitative analysis techniques are therefore both inductive and interactive. I give four examples.

1.) New Area of Research

You begin working in a new research area and there is not much in the literature to guide you. Qualitative research methodologies can allow your colleagues, patients and their families to be your guides. Find out what their experiences, priorities and current knowledge are. Does everyone have the same issues? What are their current symptom control techniques? Are they interested in and amenable to new interventions? Have they found some solutions worth testing? How can you facilitate the diffusion of successful symptom control techniques? These questions are all suited to qualitative data collection and analyses methods.

2.) Exploratory Study

Qualitative research techniques are especially useful for gathering and analyzing exploratory data. You will need to know what patients, their families, and clinicians believe and practice. You can get answers to at least the following questions efficiently:

  • What are the important issues around symptom control?
  • What does effective symptom control mean?
  • What do research protocols and instruments mean to the clinicians implementing them and the patients participating in them?
  • What patient education materials make sense to your patients and their families?
  • What does satisfaction with symptom control mean?
  • Why are some techniques adopted within and across settings, and others ignored?
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