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Far better an approximate answer to the right question … than an exact answer to the wrong question.

J.W. Tukey, 19621

Chapter Objectives

When you have completed this chapter, you will be able to understand:

  • The need for focusing on qualitative aspects in research

  • What qualitative research is

  • When it is appropriate to use qualitative approaches in research

  • The methodologic approach to qualitative research

  • Appropriate research questions in qualitative research

  • Methodology in qualitative research

  • Methods of data collection and analysis in qualitative research

  • Comparison of qualitative and quantitative research methods

  • Whether qualitative research methods complement quantitative methods

  • Rigor in qualitative research

  • Limitations of qualitative research methods

People are more likely to accept a finding or a result if it is expressed in numbers and quantified than if it is not.2 While there is hardly much scientific evidence to support certain well-known “facts,” for example, that “1 couple in 10 is infertile, or 1 person in 10 is homosexual or 1 hospital bed in 10 in the industrialized countries is for intensive care,”2 most epidemiologists are likely accept such statements if these can be quantified with some numerical data.3

The various types of research studies described in the previous chapters, either observational or interventional, need the help of numerical values to prove or disprove concepts and hypotheses. The common feature in these studies is that they are all part of quantitative research, which helps the investigator in counting and measuring events and phenomena and in trying to answer questions such as “how many,” “where,” and “when.” These quantitative researches apparently form the backbone of scientific data based on which the concept of evidence-based patient care has evolved. However, many other issues cannot be answered by these basic questions asked in quantitative research. For example, people continue to smoke tobacco in spite of knowing the harmful effects of smoking, patients with diabetes or hypertension do not adhere to treatment regimens, and people do not avail themselves of free health services. In other words, some people behave in a particular way they want to behave. These types of issues would be best tackled with questions like “what,” “how,” and “why.”


Since the discovery of insulin in 1921 and the development of various antidiabetic drugs and devices, from sulfonylureas and biguanides in the 1950s, insulin pumps in the 1970s, and insulin sensitizers in the early 2000s, treatment options for the control of hyperglycemia have come a long way. It has also been proved conclusively that reduction of the mean blood glucose level prevents or delays microvascular complications such as retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy in both types 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus and also possibly reduce macrovascular events.4,5 However, in spite of the availability of a large armamentarium of medications and having adequate knowledge that good glycemic control ...

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