Justifying knowledge, justifying method, taking action: epistemologies, methodologies, and methods in qualitative research

Qual Health Res. 2007 Dec;17(10):1316-28. doi: 10.1177/1049732307306927.


In this article, the authors clarify a framework for qualitative research, in particular for evaluating its quality, founded on epistemology, methodology, and method. They define these elements and discuss their respective contributions and interrelationships. Epistemology determines and is made visible through method, particularly in the participant- researcher relationship, measures of research quality, and form, voice, and representation in analysis and writing. Epistemology guides methodological choices and is axiological. Methodology shapes and is shaped by research objectives, questions, and study design. Methodologies can prescribe choices of method, resonate with particular academic disciplines, and encourage or discourage the use and/or development of theory. Method is constrained by and makes visible methodological and epistemic choices. If we define good quality qualitative research as research that attends to all three elements and demonstrates internal consistency between them, standardized checklists can be transcended and innovation and diversity in qualitative research practice facilitated.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Health Services Research / methods
  • Health Services Research / standards*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design