Reviews

Qualitative methods for health research

When I first looked at this book I wondered if there was room for yet another title on qualitative research in health. Indeed, the authors point out that there are already many excellent introductory textbooks available on this topic. However they have identified similar gaps in the literature as I have in working particularly with postgraduate students and neophyte researchers. In my view, their book has largely been successful in filling the gaps.

The book is aimed primarily at public health, primary care, health promotion and nursing practitioners and managers in developed and developing countries, as well as students and researchers who are working in these and other areas of social research. It provides both the theoretical and practical rationales for using qualitative methods for health research projects and as a way of improving practitioners’ own practice. Other strengths include the case study examples that are provided of research in different settings, which help to address the concern that many books of this kind are heavily skewed towards western settings and insufficiently address the issue of cultural differences, for example, in conducting interviews.

I particularly like the sections on flexible research designs, the chapters on in-depth and group interviews, the helpful practical advice provided on observational methods, and discussion of issues that are not commonly raised such as secondary analysis of research reports

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The book is aimed primarily at public health, primary care, health promotion and nursing practitioners and managers in developed and developing countries, as well as students and researchers who are working in these and other areas of social research. It provides both the theoretical and practical rationales for using qualitative methods for health research projects and as a way of improving practitioners’ own practice. Other strengths include the case study examples that are provided of research in different settings, which help to address the concern that many books of this kind are heavily skewed towards western settings and insufficiently address the issue of cultural differences, for example, in conducting interviews.

I particularly like the sections on flexible research designs, the chapters on in-depth and group interviews, the helpful practical advice provided on observational methods, and discussion of issues that are not commonly raised such as secondary analysis of research reports and collaborating across disciplines and institutions. The penultimate chapter on writing up qualitative work is also very clear and contains helpful suggestions.

Overall this book is to be commended to the suggested audience as it is clearly structured and presented in a very accessible way. It can easily be ‘dipped into’ for particular topics but it also gains by being largely the work of the two authors, albeit informed by colleagues and students, and with some input from named contributors. As such, it is coherent throughout and could be read from first to last chapter without any disjunctions – a positive feature for busy practitioners, researchers and students who are seeking both theoretical support and practical enlightenment about all aspects of qualitative research.

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