4. Qualitative Research

“The best research you can do is talk to people” – Terry Pratchett


In this chapter you will learn about:

  • qualitative approach to research/application of qualitative research in healthcare
  • definition and characteristics of qualitative research
  • qualitative research methodologies
  • qualitative data collection and analytical methods
  • rigour in qualitative research.

Opening Scenario

Sophie had just commenced her new job as a researcher in an ice cream company’s research and development department. Her first task was to obtain customers’ preferences for the new ice cream flavour developed by the team. Sophie decided to advertise the product all day on a Saturday at the most popular shopping mall in town and offered everyone who entered the mall a free ice cream. She felt that if a lot of people accepted the free ice cream offer, that would be an indication of customers’ satisfaction with and acceptance of the new ice cream flavour. Towards the end of the day, over five hundred people had accepted the free ice cream offer. This made Sophie conclude that the flavour was acceptable to the people. Would you agree with this conclusion? If yes, why?

To wrap up the event, Sophie decided to interview the last batch of people who accepted the offer to understand their perceptions of the flavour. However, to her surprise, she found out that the people accepted the offer, not because of the flavour but because the ice cream was free! The interviews helped Sophie to elicit the main reason for the acceptance of the offer. From the interviews, she found that the participants didn’t really like the new flavour, they  preferred the flavour that was produced the previous year and they gave suggestions as to how the new flavour could be improved. This story indicates that numbers only don’t tell the full story. As stated by Terry Pratchett,

The best research you can do is talk to people.




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An Introduction to Research Methods for Undergraduate Health Profession Students Copyright © 2023 by Faith Alele and Bunmi Malau-Aduli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.