Qualitative Research: What is it?

Essay by longrnUniversity, Bachelor'sA, February 2010

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Qualitative research is "the investigation of phenomena, typically in an in-depth and holistic fashion, through the collection of rich narrative materials using a flexible research design" (Polit, Beck, and Hungler, 2001, p 469). Qualitative researchers focus on the descriptions and deeper meaning associated with the data collected. Another way to define qualitative research is to describe it as a type of research that involves interpreting non-numerical data. "A qualitative researcher, therefore, believes that the world cannot be pinned down objective meanings, but that all variables must be taken into account when conducting research, including the past experiences and personalities of the researcher" (Chappell, 2000).

Interpreting the results of a qualitative research study is an intellectual process that requires critical thinking skills, creativity, and hard work (Polit, et al, 2001). Qualitative research is not linear and does not involve many formulas. Data analysis is a challenge for the qualitative researcher because of the complexity and the variances involved in the data collection.

Several other reasons for impediments in analyzing qualitative data are: a lack of standardized rules, laborious work, and the complexity of presenting the data.

In health care, it is important that the research data used to support clinical practices is legitimate. Patients may be harmed or killed as a result of undependable result. Adverse events damage patient confidence in medicine and are costly to the health care profession. According to Polit, et al (2001), there are four criteria that establish trustworthiness of a qualitative research study. These criteria are credibility, dependability, confirmation, and transferability. Confidence in the data analysis is paramount for the acceptance of the results of any research study.

There are different forms of qualitative research such as ethnography, case study, action research and evaluation. These methods may be used alone or combined. A better understanding of...