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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 134-135

Qualitative research: The philosophy behind the road less taken

Department of Anatomy, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Kalapet, Puducherry, India

Date of Web Publication8-Jan-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. V Dinesh Kumar
Department of Anatomy, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Kalapet, Puducherry
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jcrsm.jcrsm_23_17

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How to cite this article:
Kumar V D. Qualitative research: The philosophy behind the road less taken. J Curr Res Sci Med 2017;3:134-5

How to cite this URL:
Kumar V D. Qualitative research: The philosophy behind the road less taken. J Curr Res Sci Med [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 May 30];3:134-5. Available from: https://www.jcrsmed.org/text.asp?2017/3/2/134/222410

Dear Sir,

The publication by Thomas et al.[1] on “Improving medical education: Need for educational research,” gave an insight that research is not an esoteric activity and it is the only method to assess all the three domains of an academic activity. Since its inception, medical education researches were mostly quantitative. The effectiveness of an innovative program or prevalence of a cognitive trend was mostly documented as a change in the pre hoc versus post hoc values or grading in a Likert scale or filling up of “template” feedback forms. The last decade witnessed a surge in qualitative researches. This reflects a growing recognition that some of the most relevant questions especially pertaining to the affective domains of the academic community cannot be satisfactorily explored using the experimental and quantitative research methods that have traditionally dominated the research arena. Unlike conventional biomedical divisions, researches in medical education also rely on the emotions of stakeholders.

A medical student metamorphoses in his/her affective domains as a result of human interactions and relationships.[2] It can be said that quantitative researches in medical education try to narrow down this learning or social process by virtue of the “active analytics” of the researcher into discrete data. In contrast, qualitative researches acknowledge the complexity and heterogeneity of the learning process.

In a qualitative study, the researcher is not keen in testing a hypothesis or obtaining numerical variables/outcomes. Rather, he seeks to understand the “process or phenomenon.” The research question should also be framed in such a way that the participants can unwind their “point of views.” A qualitative research gains its significance only if the reflections are properly clustered and generated as themes. Unlike the statistical analysis of quantitative studies which converges on the proposed hypothesis, qualitative research demands iterative and fluidic analysis of reflections. On shelling out the inputs, the researcher is guided or made to explore newer ideas which sometimes can be unanticipated. The information obtained from sensory experience when interpreted with reason/logic forms an exclusive source of all certain knowledge (positivism).[3] This positivist notion can be well substantiated by qualitative researches.

These advantages of qualitative researches, in fact, may turn disadvantageous to young researchers as most referees/editors seldom comprehend the ideologies conveyed by them. The veritable proliferation of quantitative researches has pruned both the investigator and the reviewer, making them ignore the inductive reasoning behind qualitative researches. Many a times, the researcher pursuing qualitative study has to substantiate his/her work like a lone ranger in academic forums.

To conclude, quantitative research grounded on positivism emphasizes deductive reasoning and single objective reality.[4] On the other hand, qualitative research rooted on the constructivist paradigm favors inductive reasoning and multiple realities. It also embraces interpretivism that seeks to understand the experience through the eyes of person experiencing it,[5] which forms the crux of humanities in medical profession. In the era where bioethics in medical education is given its due weightage, more qualitative researches are required in medical education, and this also requisites understanding the process of learning from a philosophical perspective.

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  References Top

Thomas K, Basheer A, Das AK, Kuruvilla S, Nagaraj N, Alexander T, et al. Improving medical education: Need for educational research. J Curr Res Sci Med 2015;1:12-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Watling CJ, Lingard L. Grounded theory in medical education research: AMEE Guide No. 70. Med Teach 2012;34:850-61.  Back to cited text no. 2
Charmaz K. Grounded theory in the 21st century: Applications for advancing social justice studies. In: The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2005. p. 507-35.  Back to cited text no. 3
Nicholls D. Qualitative research. Part 1: Philosophies. Int J Ther Rehabil 2009;16:526-33.  Back to cited text no. 4
Yorke J, Russell AM. Interpreting the language of breathlessness. Nurs Times 2008;104:36-9.  Back to cited text no. 5


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