Qualitative methodology for rehabilitation research1
Qualitative research methodology focuses on individuals' lived experiences as they are presented in thoughts, ideas, feelings, attitudes and perceptions. In addition, the research approach emphasizes human behaviour and social interaction. It explores the quality of a phenomenon, not the quantity. This article outlines the major characteristics of qualitative research methodology and gives applications and examples. The aim of qualitative methodology is to develop new knowledge based on participants' own beliefs and experiences, not on pre-defined, testable hypotheses. It is inductive rather than deductive, and it is interpretative rather than predictive. The design is flexible, iterative and emergent and therefore requires of the researcher an ability to change and adapt the research process in accordance with emerging results. Qualitative research is thus different from quantitative research as it allows for flexibility throughout the research process. Several data collection methods can be used, such as individual interviews, focus group discussions or participant observations, in order to gain a deeper understanding of health, illness and rehabilitation. It can be used in combination with quantitative studies, but also as a research method of its own. In health research, the qualitative methodology has gained increasing credibility during the last decade. However, it is not yet frequently used in rehabilitation research. As rehabilitation outcomes are dependent on people's attitudes, thoughts and motivation regarding the rehabilitation process, and as the rehabilitation process in itself builds on social interaction, studies with a qualitative design could become useful tools in the development and improvement of rehabilitation.
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