Qualitative research is not about just about quality!

Qualitative research takes as its starting point the fact that people understand and can talk about their lives. Qualitative studies try to explain social phenomena (like experience and belief) in terms of the wider contexts of peoples’ lives.

To this end, they favour methods like direct, unstructured interviewing, or observation of real-life settings (ethnography). The data that qualitative methods collect tends to be words, rather than numbers, in the form of transcripts, or fieldwork notes. That data is typically unstructured, and statistical methods cannot be used in its analysis.

In a health care context, interview studies have been done with patients in order to understand their experience from their perspective, that is, what matters to them, rather than from the standpoint of the researcher or the professionals. Observational studies have been undertaken to understand the informal culture of particular places, like the operating theatre, A&E department, or the psychiatric hospital.