Qualitative methodology is well-established within the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, cultural studies, and pedagogy. It is also used in market/consumer research. Qualitative methods, like in-depth or focus group interviews, often seek to investigate human experience and factors that may moderate experiences – hence smaller sample groups. The aim is to gain insight into subjective knowledge or patterns of meaning within a group of subjects, seeking to understand people and how they experience a given phenomenon (e.g. the breast in breast cancer) in a context framed by biographical, psychological, socio-cultural and relational dimensions.
Our main data source is words, rather than numbers or biological samples. Lots of spoken words, recorded and transcribed to allow for detailed analysis. One interview lasting 90 minutes makes up 50-60 pages of written text to be coded, thematized and interpreted. We also have written material to analyze from participants’ expressive writing.
We believe that our “soft” methods are complimentary to the empirical bedrock of medical scientific research, because they contribute towards a deeper understanding of research subjects as whole persons. Patients are people, and the more we know about the complexity of humans, how we interact with others, and make sense of our experiences, the better we can understand and accommodate patients’ needs and tailor their care and support within the hospital.