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  • Understand the purpose of qualitative research

  • Explain how quantitative research fits with overall research paradigm

  • Discuss the design components of qualitative research studies

  • Demonstrate how qualitative research can be integrated into clinical practice


  • Coding

  • Collaborative practice agreement

  • Confirmability

  • Credibility

  • Dependability

  • Deviant case sampling

  • Frameworks

  • Interaction

  • Interpretation

  • Maximum variation sampling

  • Models

  • Naturalism

  • Purposive sampling

  • Qualitative data analysis

  • Qualitative research

  • Reflexivity

  • Relativism

  • Saturation

  • Snowball sampling

  • Sub-themes

  • Thematic analysis

  • Themes

  • Theories

  • Thick description

  • Transferability

  • Transparency and systematicity

  • Trustworthiness


Qualitative research is a process by which a researcher gets inside of a phenomenon to obtain, “detailed, descriptive data and perceptions about the variations in what goes on and the implications of those variations for the people and processes involved.”1 Furthermore, qualitative research is interested in explaining human behavior within the framework of the social structures wherein that behavior takes place.2 Qualitative data are comprised of “…well-grounded, rich descriptions and explanations of processes in identifiable local contexts” (page 436).2 Unlike quantitative data, qualitative data preserve the context of the data collection event allowing the researcher to maintain the chronology of events and make deductions about which events might have led to others.2

As such, qualitative research can provide insights as to why patients do not adhere to their medication regimens,3 how physicians and nurses perceive the contribution of pharmacists to healthcare teams,4 and improving pharmacists’ adoption of new practice opportunities.5 The following chapter provides details on the value of the qualitative research in the development of clinical evidence in pharmacy, outlines the major components of a qualitative research study and describes how these components ought to be critically evaluated, provides an overview of standards for reporting qualitative research, and finally outlines how practicing pharmacists may apply qualitative research in their day-to-day work.


By its nature, qualitative research can answer research questions that cannot be answered by quantitative research. For example, consider diabetes self-management as an intervention for people who have type II diabetes. The best available evidence says that patients who engage in these practices have improved outcomes.6 As such, it would seem like a complete no-brainer to say to a patient coming into the pharmacy with a new diabetes diagnosis and prescription for low-dose metformin that they should really engage in each of the seven components of successful diabetes self-management. Then provide that patient with some educational material about each of those seven self-management components. However, this is often not the complete story for patients.

Fast-forward three months and that same patient comes back into the pharmacy with another prescription with a higher dose of metformin and an additional prescription for glipizide, a sulfonylurea. Slightly confused and assuming the patient is not actually complying with the self-management advice the ...

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