Reviews

The landscape of qualitative research: theories and issues

This wide-reaching book sets out to describe the origin, practice and diversity of qualitative research. It is split into three parts: locating the field; paradigms and perspectives in transition; and the future of qualitative research. The chapters are by a variety of authors representing the ‘quiet revolution’ that ‘has been taking place in the social sciences’.

The first part is a thorough examination of the origins of qualitative research, exemplifying methods, ethics and politics. Particularly interesting is the chapter titled For Whom?, which describes the historical position of the qualitative researcher the following way: ‘Observed in social science texts, protecting privilege, securing distance.’ One is reminded that qualitative research in our context of health and public policy often rests on the rulers observing the ruled. A qualitative researcher colleague reminded me the other day that there are not many qualitative studies of prime ministers and cabinets!

For the individual introducing him or herself to qualitative research, the first part of this book will help to place this broad field of endeavour into context. However, as a health researcher, used to expression in plain language for wide distribution, the language is tortuous at times (with some very long sentences of several lines). Despite these reservations, perseverance is

...

The first part is a thorough examination of the origins of qualitative research, exemplifying methods, ethics and politics. Particularly interesting is the chapter titled For Whom?, which describes the historical position of the qualitative researcher the following way: ‘Observed in social science texts, protecting privilege, securing distance.’ One is reminded that qualitative research in our context of health and public policy often rests on the rulers observing the ruled. A qualitative researcher colleague reminded me the other day that there are not many qualitative studies of prime ministers and cabinets!

For the individual introducing him or herself to qualitative research, the first part of this book will help to place this broad field of endeavour into context. However, as a health researcher, used to expression in plain language for wide distribution, the language is tortuous at times (with some very long sentences of several lines). Despite these reservations, perseverance is rewarded.

For the experienced researcher the second part offers insights and perspectives into newer areas of examination. The chapter titled Contradictions and Emerging Confluences was particularly enlightening with its systematic examination of conflicting stories. This is something of great worth in the health field as we move from a paternalist model of ‘doctor and nurse know best, do as we say’ to more controversial models of public policy.

Other chapters in this part describe qualitative investigation into sexuality, racial and ethnic discourse. The final section sets out 12 questions which get to the heart of the challenge of making sense of a multi-perspective world while maintaining academic rigour. The authors note: ‘It is apparent that the constantly changing field of qualitative research is defined by a series of tensions and contraindications as well as emergent understandings.’

As a healthcare researcher, who uses both qualitative and quantitative methods, I was stimulated, encouraged and confused by this book. A very good thing for someone who aspires to influence people’s lives! I am certainly going to pursue some of the methodologies into the examination of conflicting stories and recommend this book as a reference for the new researcher and a considered read by the expert.

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?