Improvement Science Meets Improvement Scholarship: Reframing Research for Better Healthcare

Health Care Anal. 2018 Jun;26(2):109-123. doi: 10.1007/s10728-017-0354-6.


In this editorial essay I explore the possibilities of 'improvement scholarship' in order to set the scene for the theme of, and the other papers in, this issue. I contrast a narrow conception of quality improvement (QI) research with a much broader and more inclusive conception, arguing that we should greatly extend the existing dialogue between 'problem-solving' and 'critical' currents in improvement research. I have in mind the potential for building a much larger conversation between those people in 'improvement science' who are expressly concerned with tackling the problems facing healthcare and the wider group of colleagues who are engaged in health-related scholarship but who do not see themselves as particularly interested in quality improvement, indeed who may be critical of the language or concerns of QI. As one contribution to that conversation I suggest that that the increasing emphasis on theory and rigour in improvement research should include more focus on normative theory and rigour. The remaining papers in the issue are introduced including the various ways in which they handle the 'implicit normativity' of QI research and practice, and the linked theme of combining relatively 'tidy' and potentially 'unruly' forms of knowledge.

Keywords: Improvement science; Moral seriousness; Normativity; Quality improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Fellowships and Scholarships*
  • Humans
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Quality Improvement / standards
  • Science*
  • Social Sciences