|Year : 2014 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 118-120
Application of qualitative research methods in heterogeneous domains of public health: An overview
Saurabh R Shrivastava, Prateek S Shrivastava, Jegadeesh Ramasamy
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Ammapettai, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
|Date of Web Publication||7-Jan-2015|
Dr. Saurabh R Shrivastava
3rd Floor, Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Ammapettai Village, Thiruporur- Guduvancherry Main Road, Sembakkam Post, Kancheepuram - 603 108, Tamil Nadu
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Scientific research in the area of medicine and public health has resulted in remarkable achievements and major reforms in the health sector and the overall progress of the health care in the last century. Predominantly research methodologies have been categorized into two major areas namely quantitative and qualitative research. Qualitative research is a special form of social enquiry that focuses on the way people interpret and perceive their experiences. Apart from exploring different facets of research, it also provides complementary information to the results of the quantitative research methods. Altogether, qualitative research methodologies can be applied in variable health settings with an aim to assess the human behavior and thus help policy makers to plan and implement appropriate measures to combat public health concerns.
Keywords: Focus group discussion, in-depth interviews, key-informant interviews, qualitative research
|How to cite this article:|
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Application of qualitative research methods in heterogeneous domains of public health: An overview. Indian J Health Sci Biomed Res 2014;7:118-20
|How to cite this URL:|
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Application of qualitative research methods in heterogeneous domains of public health: An overview. Indian J Health Sci Biomed Res [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Jan 22];7:118-20. Available from: http://www.ijournalhs.org/text.asp?2014/7/2/118/148814
| Introduction|| |
Scientific research in the area of medicine and public health has resulted in remarkable achievements and major reforms in the health sector and the overall progress of the health care in the last century.  Predominantly research methodologies have been categorized into two major areas namely quantitative and qualitative research.  Quantitative research usually studies action/manifested behavior, is objective and definite, employs highly structured methods like questionnaire/survey, and thus measures the level of confidence and predicts causal relationships.  In contrast, qualitative research usually assesses the motivations/intentions/reasons, is subjective and exploratory, employs semi-structured methods, and thus provides an in-depth understanding of the issue and assist in explaining relationships. 
| Qualitative Research|| |
Qualitative research is a form of social enquiry that focuses on the way people interpret and perceive their experiences (viz. individual-centered perspective) and the world in which they live.  Apart from exploring different facets of research, it also provides complementary information to the results of the quantitative research methods.  Qualitative research uses non-probability sampling methods, and selection of study respondents is usually flexible and evolves as the study progresses.  The qualitative method of research has been employed in different health related settings such as mental health, infection prevention, the formulation of policies, medical education, clinical practice, improvement in the randomized control trials, and in naïve areas that have never been explored. ,,,,
| Characteristics of Qualitative Research|| |
Different types of qualitative research usually have common features and employ similar procedures in spite of the existing variability in the approach of data collection and the preferred mode of analysis.  In most of the qualitative approaches researcher focuses on the everyday life of people in natural settings and has to be sensitive to the situation; the theoretical framework is not predetermined but derives from the data; focuses on the views of the people involved in the research and their perceptions, meanings and interpretations; data collection and analysis generally proceed together; uses open-ended methods; and involves respondents as active participants rather than subjects. ,
Methods for data collection in qualitative research
Although, multiple methods exist for doing data collection in qualitative research, there are three main methods, namely participant observation (viz. descriptive observations of verbal and nonverbal behavior), interactive interviewing (viz. people are asked to verbally describe their experiences), and written descriptions by the participants (viz. people are directed to write descriptions of their experiences). ,
This method is being employed in locations with some relevance to the research questions. The researcher seeks to understand the day-to-day life of participants and in doing so makes detailed notes about what he sees or perceives from informal conversations and interactions. The success of the method depends mostly on the ability of the researcher to establish a rapport in the community, command over the native language, a good memory, and a conscious habit to be a naiveté to genuinely know the maximum possible in the study setting. ,,
The in-depth interview is a technique designed to elicit a clear and detailed picture of the participant's perspective by engaging them in a one-to-one conversation, pertaining to the research area. During in-depth interviews, the aim of the interview is to obtain the perspectives, feelings and perceptions from the participants. The researchers involve people by posing neutral questions; listen attentively to participant's responses; ask follow-up questions based on their response; do not lead participants according to any preconceived notions or by expressing approval or disapproval. ,,
Key informant interviews
Key informant (KI) interviews can be summed up as in-depth interviews of 10 to 20 people selected to elicit their first - hand knowledge about the topic of interest. The most crucial element in this qualitative research method is the selection of the KI - should be expressive, willing to participate, trustworthy and should occupy a unique position in the community by virtue of which they can impart useful information. This method can be employed when descriptive information is sufficient for decision making; when there is a need to understand behavior of beneficiaries and health partners; when the main purpose is to generate recommendations that can improve a program's performance; and when preliminary information is needed to design a comprehensive quantitative study. Thus, it is useful in all phases of the health policy - area of interest, planning cycle, implementation in the settings, and finally evaluation of these services. ,,
Focus group discussions
This qualitative method of data collection is extremely helpful in assisting researchers to understand the social norms/cultural practices of a community, and can eventually modify the opinion of the entire group. A focus group discussions (FGD) consists of one or two researchers, six-twelve participants (viz. homogenous with respect to their background characteristics and willing to talk), a moderator (viz. who conducts the discussion by asking participants to respond to open-ended questions) and a recorder (who notes down the proceedings and draws the sociogram - a pictorial representation of the way the interactions have occurred between various participants). FGD is especially well suited for socio-behavioral research to develop and measure health services that meet the needs of a given population. However, they are not recommended for acquiring information on highly personal or socially sensitive topics. ,,
| Conclusion|| |
Altogether, qualitative research methodologies can be applied in variable health settings with an aim to assess the human behavior and thus help policy makers to plan and implement appropriate measures to combat public health concerns.
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