[Skip to Navigation]
Sign In
The Medical Literature
July 26, 2000

Users' Guides to the Medical Literature: XXIII. Qualitative Research in Health Care
B. What Are the Results and How Do They Help Me Care for My Patients?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Drs Giacomini and Cook), Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (Dr Giacomini), Department of Medicine, Divisions of General Medicine and Critical Care for the Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group (Dr Cook), McMaster University, Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario.


Users' Guides to the Medical Literature Section Editor: Drummond Rennie, MD, Deputy Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(4):478-482. doi:10.1001/jama.284.4.478

The second part of this 2-part series on how to interpret qualitative research addresses, "what are the results," and, "how do they help me care for my patients?" Qualitative analysis is a process of summarizing and interpreting data to develop theoretical insights that describe and explain social phenomena such as interactions, experiences, roles, perspectives, symbols, and organizations. Key results are often illustrated with excerpts from interview transcripts, field notes, or documents. The results of a qualitative research report are best understood as an empirically based contribution to ongoing dialogue and exploration. Empirically based theory evolves from a process of exploration, discovery, analysis, and synthesis. Each concept should be defined carefully in a way that is meaningful to the reader. Concepts should be adequately developed and illustrated when theoretical conclusions are drawn. Arguments should be explained and justified. The qualitative research report ideally should address how the findings relate to other theories in the field. The qualitative study can provide a useful road map for understanding and navigating similar social settings interactions, or relationships.

Add or change institution