This session provides an introduction to basic theory in qualitative research. There is further discussion of participatory theory in session 7. Having a basic understanding of theory is important because it helps to:

• inform the type of information you need
• identify individuals and groups from whom you need information
• the methods you use and how you can use them
• how you analyse the findings
• how you justify your findings, and whether research is valid

Qualitative research has at times been accused of being bias and unrepresentative when compared to quantitative research. However, there are key methodological differences between qualitative and quantitative research that relate to the underlying theory to both approaches. In this session these differences are explored and overall the key learning objectives are to:

• To give meaning to the terms “paradigm”, “epistemology”, “deductive and inductive processes”
• To identify the main characteristics of a positivist/experimental and a naturalistic/anthropological research paradigm


You can download the powerpoint here and some key discussions here.


Recommended introductory reading: 

Kitto, S. C., J. Chesters and C. Grbich (2008). "Quality in qualitative research." Medical Journal of Australia 188(4): 243-246.

Malterud, K. (2001). "The art and science of clinical knowledge: evidence beyond measures and numbers." Lancet 358(9279): 397-400.

Pope, C. and N. Mays (1995). "Reaching the parts other methods cannot reach: an introduction to qualitative methods in health and health services research." BMJ
311(6996): 42-45.

Kuper, A., Lingard, L., & Levinson, W. (2008). Critically appraising qualitative research. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 337(September), a1035. http://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1035

Mays, N., & Pope, C. (2000). Assessing quality in qualitative research. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 320(7226), 50–52.
http://www.bmj.com/content/320/7226/50.1