From schism to continuum? The problematic relationship between expert and lay knowledge--an exploratory conceptual synthesis of two qualitative studies

Qual Health Res. 2005 Jul;15(6):729-49. doi: 10.1177/1049732304273927.


Ideas about lay and expert knowledge increasingly underscore debates within qualitative health research. In this article, the authors develop an exploratory synthesis of two qualitative studies in which they critique the lay-expert divide, suggesting instead a spectrum of knowledge(s) about health and scientific issues. In the original studies, the researchers examined food risks and alternative medicine, and they shared an interest in the lay-expert knowledge relationship. Reinterpreting each study in the light of the other led to greater conceptual development. Three mutual themes emerged and are presented with discussion of their contribution to wider theoretical debates. This worked example indicates that researchers can achieve valuable additional conceptual development through the cross-fertilization of ideas across qualitative studies united not by common health topics but by shared conceptual concerns.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Food
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Risk
  • United Kingdom