Quality over quantity: the value of qualitative research

13 May 2022
Acuity digital

Kathy Oxtoby looks at what qualitative research adds to clinical evidence and how it provides human insights that can’t be measured in numbers.

From case studies and systematic reviews to exploring patients’ views on services, qualitative research has made a valuable contribution to the advancement of optometry. Qualitative research has been defined as “the study of the nature of phenomena” – their quality or context rather than their range or frequency (Philipsen and Vernooij-Dassen, 2007). Put simply: qualitative research usually comes in the form of words, not numbers (Punch, 2013).

This type of research “typically begins with an intention to explore a particular area by collecting data which allow for the generation of new ideas or hypotheses”, says Dr Lee Jones, Research Fellow at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Senior Scientist at research and innovation charity Bravo Victor. “This differs from quantitative research, which usually starts with a clearly defined hypothesis and uses measurements to produce data,” he says.

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