Introduction to Qualitative Research

Qualitative research methods refer to techniques of investigation that rely on nonstatistical and nonnumerical methods of data collection, analysis, and evidence production. Qualitative research techniques provide a lens for learning about nonquantifiable phenomena such as people’s experiences, languages, histories, and cultures. We can describe the strengths and role of qualitative research methods and how these can be employed in clinical research.

Although frequently employed in the social sciences and humanities, qualitative research methods can complement clinical research. These techniques can contribute to a better understanding of the social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions of health and illness. Social scientists and scholars in the humanities rely on a wide range of methods, including interviews, surveys, participant observation, focus groups, oral history, and archival research to examine both structural conditions and lived experience. Such research can not only provide robust and reliable data but can also humanize and add richness to our understanding of the ways in which people in different parts of the world perceive and experience illness and how they interact with medical institutions, systems, and therapeutics.