This paper provides a primer for qualitative research in medical education. Our aim is to equip readers with a basic understanding of qualitative research and prepare them to judge the goodness of fit between qualitative research and their own research questions. We provide an overview of the reasons for choosing a qualitative research approach and potential benefits of using these methods for systematic investigation. We discuss developing qualitative research questions, grounding research in a philosophical framework, and applying rigorous methods of data collection, sampling, and analysis. We also address methods to establish the trustworthiness of a qualitative study and introduce the reader to ethical concerns that warrant special attention when planning qualitative research. We conclude with a worksheet that readers may use for designing a qualitative study. Medical educators ask many questions that carefully designed qualitative research would address effectively. Careful attention to the design of qualitative studies will help to ensure credible answers that will illuminate many of the issues, challenges, and quandaries that arise while doing the work of medical education.
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