Summary

In recent years there has been a methodological revolution in social science and educational research generally,and medical education as well,with increasing acceptance of qualitative research traditions and methods as part of our repertoire of inquiry approaches. There is a wide variety of threads interwoven under the rubric “qualitative methods ”. A common paradigmatic theme includes the epistemological and ontological view of knowledge as a human construction. Another common theme is reliance on collection,analysis, and interpretation of qualitative datasuch as observations in natural settings reported in field notes, interviews recorded in transcripts, and document analysis.Important areas of qualitative inquiry range from ethnography, which focuses on understanding phenomena such as clinical teaching through participant observation; to critical theory,which focuses on bringing to light power inequities in situations such as health care teams,with the goal of empowering participants to seek reform.

The purposes of this chapter are to: (1) characterize the place and nature of qualitative methods in social science and educational research; (2) provide an overview of the research traditions linked with qualitative inquiry in the social sciences and education generally — their characteristic questions,their methods and their criteria for soundness and rigor; (3) present a review and analysis of research in medical education linked with qualitative traditions or relying heavily on qualitative methods; and (4) suggest future directions for qualitative research methods in medical education. In this review, we will focus on research in medical education, rather than research in medicine,which is a vast area for review in its own right. Therefore,we will view as our domain the processes of selection for training,curriculum development,instruction, program evaluation,performance evaluation,and professional socialization.

We do not intend to present a survey of all qualitative research in medical education,but rather an analysis of exemplars illustrating applications of qualitative methods. This review will be organized by the subject-matter focus of the research because, to date, certain issues have been the subject of the greatest number of qualitative studies,perhaps due to the nature of the questions raised and of the issues. This chapter is not intended as a “how to” manual;the complexity however, we will provide the canonical and classic references for the conduct of research methods discussed. The area ofqualitative methods has matured to the point of having an extensive and rich literature dealing with paradigm issues, guidelines for everyaspect of the use of specific methods, and standards for research qualityand rigor.

Keywords

Agar Coherence Assure Posit Sorting 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilene B. Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Minnesota Medical SchoolUSA

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