Rationale: This paper is based on the rationale that misuse of methodological notions in research publications lays research studies open to criticism and dismissal.
Aim: In search of 'best research practice', this paper aims to examine the different qualities of four major qualitative methodologies: ethnography, descriptive phenomenology, interpretative phenomenology/hermeneutics and critical social theory.
Design: The study presents a critical overview of methodological decision-making, illustrating the sorts of issues researchers must consider in order to justify to the readership and to themselves the employment of a particular methodology. This is presented alongside a general overview of qualitative research and a précis of each of the major qualitative methodologies. The paper describes the methodologies, salient features, and examines methodological similarities and differences. The paper concludes by examining the need for methodological rigour within the framework of the National Health Service (NHS) Executive's drive for evidence-based practice in health care.
Recommendations: It is hoped that the paper will stimulate a deeper exploration of methodological rigour in future research publications.