Qualitative research on health communication: what can it contribute?

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Mar;82(3):384-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.12.021. Epub 2011 Jan 15.


Objective: To contribute to the debate about the value of qualitative research in health care by discussing three key issues in relation to qualitative research on health communication.

Methods: As this paper does not report the results of a primary research study or a secondary analysis, no formal search strategy was employed to identify the cited papers; many other published papers would have made the same points just as well.

Results: The key issues are illustrated using a range of published studies drawn from the health care communication literature. The paper describes the range of outputs generated by qualitative research; illustrates different ways in which qualitative and quantitative methods can be combined; and shows the contribution of qualitative syntheses.

Conclusions: Greater conceptual development and explanatory power may be achieved both by more ambitious primary studies and the conduct of more qualitative syntheses. The synthesis of qualitative research also offers the opportunity to build up a cumulative evidence base.

Practice implications: The further development of methods of qualitative synthesis will be enhanced if qualitative researchers place greater emphasis on explanation rather than description; cite each other's work more often and conduct more syntheses; and continue to contribute to mixed methods studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Communication*
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research*