Presenting and Evaluating Qualitative Research

Claire Anderson PhD, BPharm

Disclosures

Am J Pharm Educ. 2010;74(8):1-7. 

In This Article

Strengths and Limitations of Qualitative Research

Qualitative researchers have been criticized for overusing interviews and focus groups at the expense of other methods such as ethnography, observation, documentary analysis, case studies, and conversational analysis. Qualitative research has numerous strengths when properly conducted.

Strengths of Qualitative Research

  • Issues can be examined in detail and in depth.

  • Interviews are not restricted to specific questions and can be guided/redirected by the researcher in real time.

  • The research framework and direction can be quickly revised as new information emerges.

  • The data based on human experience that is obtained is powerful and sometimes more compelling than quantitative data.

  • Subtleties and complexities about the research subjects and/or topic are discovered that are often missed by more positivistic enquiries.

  • Data usually are collected from a few cases or individuals so findings cannot be generalized to a larger population. Findings can however be transferable to another setting.

Limitations of Qualitative Research

  • Research quality is heavily dependent on the individual skills of the researcher and more easily influenced by the researcher's personal biases and idiosyncrasies.

  • Rigor is more difficult to maintain, assess, and demonstrate.

  • The volume of data makes analysis and interpretation time consuming.

  • It is sometimes not as well understood and accepted as quantitative research within the scientific community

  • The researcher's presence during data gathering, which is often unavoidable in qualitative research, can affect the subjects' responses.

  • Issues of anonymity and confidentiality can present problems when presenting findings

  • Findings can be more difficult and time consuming to characterize in a visual way.

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