Is it science? A study of the attitudes of medical trainees and physicians toward qualitative and quantitative research

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2008 Dec;13(5):659-74. doi: 10.1007/s10459-007-9072-4. Epub 2007 Jul 5.


This study examined the degree of acceptance of qualitative research by medical trainees and physicians, and explored the causes for any differences in their support of qualitative versus quantitative research. Thirty-two individuals at four levels of medical training were studied. Eight philosophers of science served for construct validation. After completing a questionnaire, participants were interviewed using a semi-structured procedure. Transcriptions of the interviews were coded for emergent themes. Coding consensus was achieved via iterative discussion. When asked to categorize 10 projects, participants on average ranked quantitative science projects as "more scientific" than those using qualitative methodologies. Although participants appeared largely unaware of the principles underlying qualitative methodologies, most expressed the belief that qualitative data was more biased and less objective than quantitative data. Prior qualitative research experience was the major predictor of acceptance of qualitative research. Participants' acceptance of interpretivistic or positivistic paradigms also influenced what type of science they felt was acceptable. Their level of training did not correlate with the acceptance of qualitative methodologies. On average, participants in our study favoured quantitative methodologies over qualitative methodologies. We postulate that this preference is due to their unawareness of the principles and paradigms underlying the methodologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Physicians*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Design / standards
  • Science / standards*
  • Students, Medical*