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Qualitative methodology - a tool for studying meaning and culture in medicine

Julia Szymczak explains how qualitative research methods can be used to collect information regarding AMS and what the pros and cons of this are.

In this video Julia Szymczak talks about the use of qualitative methods of research, and how they can be used to generate valuable knowledge that can be used in antimicrobial stewardship.

Key features of qualitative research methodology include:

  • Adopting a flexible and iterative research strategy – there is an openness to refine methods as the research is happening.

    • For example, if you begin to uncover a theme or pattern that you didn’t know to ask about, your interview guide can be changed in order to ask about it.
  • Using data collection methods involves close contact between the researcher and what is being researched.

  • Data which is detailed, information rich and extensive.

  • Gaining a deeper understanding of the social and material circumstances, experiences, perspectives and histories of the research subject.

  • Viewing human behaviour and social life in terms of processes rather than static terms.

  • Subjects that are small in scale (especially in comparison to quantitative work) and purposefully selected.

Pros and Cons

There are positive and negative aspects to qualitative research, and it is important to take both sides into account.

Pros Cons
Allows investigation of topics that are difficult to operationalise quantitatively. Takes a large amount of time.
Allows discovery of unanticipated phenomena. There is limited generalisability (often due to small samples).
Information gathered can inform subsequent investigations and intervention design. Very labour intensive.
Data are compelling to multiple audiences. Can be hard to publish in medical literature.
Can be used to uncover mechanisms to explain why an intervention did or didn’t work. There is scepticism about scientific worthiness and validity of approach – although this is changing.

Now that you have listened to the presentation please see below under see more for further reading on recent studies that have applied social science research to tackling AMR. This will provide further insight into the empirical contribution qualitative methods can make to understanding how we can develop contextually fit and sustainable programmes in different settings.

Please find a pdf of the PowerPoint slides in the downloads section below.

In the comments below please let us know:

  • Your view on the use of qualitative research
  • How might you use qualitative research in your own practice?
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Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance: A Social Science Approach

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