Sample Paper on Qualitative Research Methods Healthcare Perspective

Qualitative Research Methods


Qualitative Research defined

Qualitative research is a research technique that takes into account varied opinions, feelings and experiences of individuals to produce subjective information. It describes social events that are naturally occurring in everyday life (Patton and Cochran, 2002). It takes into the premise of understanding in which such events and occurrences are described in an all-inclusive perspective.  The main objective of this method is designing effective theories that can guide in knowledge developments applicable in different fields of study. It has its foundation from constructionism epistemology of learning that asserts that knowledge is gained through interactions with one another.

Qualitative research methods healthcare perspective

Research in healthcare has been largely quantitative due to the drive towards evidence-based healthcare. Now, with the increasing and advancing nature of healthcare in the field of dentistry, qualitative research has gained popularity. This has consequently created awareness and proposed the application of qualitative research methods in aspects of healthcare investigations. Qualitative methods like interviews offers a unique understanding in a patient’s perspective while providing knowledge on their attitudes and beliefs, this is in contrast to the structured questionnaires used quantitative methods (Sofaer, 2002). Based on this premise, there has been a greater acceptance of the qualitative approach and most organizations control their medical research funding by developing ethical procedures for conducting such studies.

Qualitative research methods in Dental public health

Quality dental public health is one area where it can be employed; this research method offers numerous ways that can be used in identifying what is actually important to patients and medical practitioners. It is used to detect and establish obstacles that exist and recommend ways of overcoming such obstacles in medical examinations. It is without question as essential aspect of dental health research as it allows the reaching of areas not targeted by quantitative techniques, for example, dental health beliefs. Information arising from research conducted through qualitative method would be viable for use in formulation of healthcare policies as it takes into account the socio-cultural dimensions of the subjects under study.

Roles of qualitative research in dental public health

This research methodology plays a role in studying and understanding the interactions between the patient and the medical practitioners. This research method provides insightful information about the perspectives of dental public health care as it ensures the concentration on the patient’s own views and perceptions of the dental healthcare services provided, for example a patient views on tooth removal or filling. This information would be important to future dentists as it will give them insights on what the various patients perceive and believe in.

It has also played a significant role in identifying obstacles and barriers that exist in the dental health practice. This is achieve through exploration of the reasons behind such obstacles, for example, the study on the patients decisions to take pain killers especially after removal of a tooth and also the use of antibiotics by the patients and their compliance to follow the procedures as directed by the dental physicians. In addition to patient perceptions this research methods has helped in identifying the factors that nurture doctor’s motivations and which may affect their socio-cultural life. Motivation of the dental doctors is important as it will improve their productivity and concern for the patients, for example; a study on the relation between dental health career and the family life of doctors, the perception of attitudes and illness of the doctors to themselves and the profession.

Qualitative research methodology has played a role in identifying the cultural and social factors that affects the dental care givers either positively or negatively. This information is valuable as it assist in improving service delivery by medical practitioners. For example, studies on language barriers and ethnic minorities have provided knowledge on beliefs and conduct of the patients which may affect help seeking. Different ethnic upbringings and principles at times may avert a patient from looking for assistance.

To summarize on the roles, qualitative research methods in dental public health can supplement research in such areas as patient satisfaction, interaction between patient and doctor, explaining attitudes and beliefs. It has also been useful in assessing new technology that can be integrated in the practice to increase service delivery and productivity. All these are aimed at providing valuable information and knowledge to improve on healthcare service provision.

Problems with using this type of methodology

Qualitative research methods suffer from the problem of subjectivity; methods such as interviews and case studies provide information that is subject to bias and misinterpretations. For example, if one is investigating childhood dental problems of an adult, information could be exaggerated based on sympathy and feelings. This subjectivity issue also arises during analysis and interpretation of data, researchers could interpret data based on what they want the research to show (Burnard etal, 2008).

Generalizing of data becomes a problem due to the subjective nature of this method of research. This is because it has a notion of generalizing a small data from a small sample through percentages and mathematical expressions. In the contrary, the detail that this research offers makes it difficult to oversimplify that data to the general population. This therefore means that with such a small sample, participant data is less accurate representation of the general population.

The course of steering a research is wide and involves a lot in terms of facts, skills and aptitudes (Krauss, 2005). Qualitative research methodology therefore may experience research quality problems as the entire work is largely dependent on individual skills of the researcher. This means that the research may be affected by personal biases of the researcher who may conceal certain information about the objects of study.

Other problems associated with this kind of research include; rigidity that makes it difficult to assess the research findings, demonstrate them and maintain their validity. This means that once findings have been analyzed and interpreted it is difficult to change and re-evaluate the data.  It collects a lot of data that makes interpretation and analysis time-cumbersome as different views and opinions must be taken into account. This is due to the fact that it captures even the minute aspects of a patient life or behavior. This kind of methodology is not accepted in some communities due to the physical presence of a researcher; this affects and influences the responses likely to be provided by the subjects of the study. Confidentiality and anonymity problems may manifest during the presentations of results band hence create major problems of validity. Finally presenting findings in graphical ways for interpretation may subsequently pose problems.

Contributions to evidence-based practice

The first major contribution of qualitative research methods is in the formulation of hypotheses for a study. In this methodology study results always advocate hypotheses that can be used in future research assignments (Barnett and Thomas, 2009).  For example, in a study on healthcare on the symptoms of heart failure of a patient, an hypothesis from this study of resting between physical activities as a strategy to reduce that occurrence of heart failure can a form a basis for future investigation through research.

Second, it has backed the evolution in the growth and authentication of inquiry instruments. Information is collected on a topic and then translated into a measurable instrument. A case is the study on assessing customer pleasure using chemotherapy management instrument. This is arrived at after analyzing data from the research and developing a satisfaction checklist that provides responses on the satisfaction rate of patients. The qualitative data is then used to develop content validity of that instrument and once their validity has been verified such instruments are used to assess application of evidence-based practice in healthcare services (Meadows, 2003).

Third, it has provided background upon which healthcare practice can be evaluated since when an evidence-based exercise is implemented evaluation of such must be done. This evaluation will provide an anticipation of changes likely to occur in the practice by indicating the process as well as the outcome associated. For example, a study conducted to evaluate diabetes; patients indicated how they felt while the practitioners evaluated the blood sugar and glucose. This indicates that additional categories of evaluations should be included and affirms that evidence-based practice is a complex procedure and that requires extensive evaluations to arise at summaries.

Fourth, it is through qualitative data from research that healthcare and nursing interventions can be designed. For instance, interviewing pediatricians in relation to respiration problems in children informed that diagnoses had an impact than assessment of the situation. This information was defined from a previously collected qualitative data from research.

Fifth, it has aided in the development of new research queries; during this more queries are raised both at the beginning or end. For instance, a study on healthcare teaching in classroom that highlighted on the importance of reflection in teaching experience which later summarized that data collection approaches enriched personal reflection in teaching. Finally, it has brought outcome analysis that has been integrated on evidence-based practice in healthcare; this is integrated in clinical practice and evaluated to demonstrate the influences of such application on responses by patients (Krithikadatta, 2012).

Examples of qualitative research successfully used in dental public health

Qualitative research is becoming famous and has been accepted to the extent of being published in healthcare, pharmacy and medical journals. Some publishers have even developed guidelines on how a qualitative research work can be presented for instance the British medical Journals. This acceptance has greatly revolutionized research process in the medical field and dental public health is no exception. Qualitative research has been underutilized in the dental healthcare field despite the potential being huge. There are several studies that have successfully used this methodology which have proved that actually qualitative research can be used to provide responses on questions and issues ranging from dentistry work issues to attitudes and beliefs of patients.

First, a study conducted that aimed to highlight mothers’ dental health beliefs, carried using unstructured questionnaires provided concrete information about how they feel about dental development of their children.  A similar methodology using interviews was conducted to identify barriers to prevention of caries on children. The studies aimed to provide information to dental care professionals to concentrate on the dental pain of children and to appreciate the psycho-social impacts on the dental health of children.

Another study meant to recognize factors that influenced patients’ visits to dentists and their expectations during emergency services. Certain issues rose from the research that comprised of patience satisfaction, fear, anxiety and cost of such attendance. Likewise, a study evaluated on the perceptions of dental health on people with damaged teeth that used open-ended interviews and provided information on certain aspects of dental health that patients had information on. It summarized that there was need for greater understanding between dentists and patients in addition to other professionals.

Other studies conducted using qualitative research methods investigated on the factors impacting on decision making by the dentistry professionals including their knowledge, practices and attitudes. This study also highlighted on staff fears, financial burden, personal risk faced by the professionals in the course of their service delivery. Behaviors of caregivers in dealing with patient with toothache problems have also been investigated that has recommended that such patients require psychological preparation rather than just alleviating pain.


A lot of recognition has been given to qualitative techniques in the healthcare field. This is because it provides a better platform for answering questions and issues that may not be easily performed by quantitative techniques. In addition, it brings out the understanding of the concept or issue under study based on the socio-cultural background in which the study is conducted thereby increasing knowledge wealth. Since healthcare research has all a long been based on quantitative methods, there is a need for a detailed understanding of the theory basis, methods and evaluation procedures to be used in this kind of research.


Barnett-Page, E. & Thomas, J. (2009). ‘Methods for the synthesis of qualitative research: a critical review.’ BMC Medical Research Methodology.

Burnard, P., Gill, P., Stewart, K., Treasure, E. & Chadwick, B. (2008). ‘Analysing and presenting qualitative data.’ British Dental Journal, 204:429-432.

Krauss, S. E. (2005). ‘Research Paradigms and Meaning Making: A Primer.’ The Qualitative Report,        10:758-770.

Krithikadatta, J. (2012). ‘Research methodology in Dentistry: Part I- The essentials and relevance of research.’ J Conserv Dent, 15:5-11.

Meadows, L. M. (2003). ‘Keeping up Appearances: Using Qualitative Research to Enhance Knowledge of Dental Practice.’ Journal of Dental Education.

Patton, M. Q. & Cochran, M. (2002). A Guide to Using Qualitative Research Methodology.

Sofaer, S. (2002). ‘Qualitative Research methods. International Journal of Quality in Care 14(4):329-336.