Making words count: the value of qualitative research

Physiother Res Int. 2004;9(3):121-31. doi: 10.1002/pri.312.


In the current climate of evidence-based practice, physiotherapy is urged to prove its worth via rigorous scientific research. However, there are concerns that limited methodologies are used to explore complex therapeutic issues, and that the profession relies too heavily on quantitative research studies to provide its evidence base. Qualitative research methods are able to explore the complexity of human behaviour and generate deeper understanding of illness behaviours and therapeutic interactions. Nevertheless, there is still a sense of distrust of qualitative research, related to the challenge of evaluating both the quality and usefulness of findings derived through qualitative methods. This discussion paper explores these issues. It examines some of the most frequently used techniques aimed at ensuring quality and value in qualitative research, such as sampling, triangulation, multiple coding, respondent validation and the use of audit trails, as well as addressing reflexivity. Because of the pluralistic and interactive nature of qualitative inquiry, the criteria used to judge quality need to be appropriate to each piece of research and should provide evidence to help readers to evaluate the calibre of the study and its relevance to their own area of work.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / methods
  • Decision Trees
  • Humans
  • Observer Variation
  • Physical Therapy Specialty*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sampling Studies
  • Terminology as Topic