Qualitative health research is used to explore and understand various aspects of health, illness, healthcare systems, and the experiences of individuals within these contexts. Qualitative health research seeks to gather and analyse non-numerical data, such as narratives, interviews, observations, and textual documents, to uncover the meanings, perceptions, and social constructs related to health and healthcare.
There are different approaches to qualitative research, including:
Phenomenological research aims to understand the lived experiences of individuals within a specific phenomenon or context. Researchers seek to explore the essence and meaning of those experiences. This approach is often used to study patient experiences, illness narratives, and the subjective aspects of health and illness.
An example of a phenomenological study is by Marks et al (2019). This study “explores the lived experience of chronic disabling tinnitus, with the aim of understanding how distress and chronicity occur, and what might help to reduce this”.
Grounded theory research focuses on developing theory from qualitative data. Researchers collect and analyse data to identify patterns, concepts, and categories that emerge from the data itself, rather than starting with preconceived theories. This approach is often employed to generate theories that explain social and healthcare processes.
An example of a grounded theory study is by Hughes et al (2018) who explored “the perceptions, understanding, and experiences of listening effort in adults with severe-profound sensorineural hearing loss before and after cochlear implantation”.
Ethnographic research involves immersing researchers in the field to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular culture, community, or healthcare setting. Researchers observe and interact with participants over an extended period, often using participant observation, interviews, and field notes to capture the cultural and social context of health-related phenomena.
An example of a study using ethnographic observations is by Pryce and Gooberman-Hill (2012), who aimed to explore “factors affecting communication with a hearing loss in residential care”.