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Making words count: the value of qualitative research.

Waterfield, Jackie; Johnson, Ros


Jackie Waterfield

Ros Johnson


In the current climate of evidence-based practice, physiotherapy is urged to prove its worth via rigorous scientific research. However, there are concerns that limited methodologies are used to explore complex therapeutic issues, and that the profession relies too heavily on quantitative research studies to provide its evidence base. Qualitative research methods are able to explore the complexity of human behaviour and generate deeper understanding of illness behaviours and therapeutic interactions. Nevertheless, there is still a sense of distrust of qualitative research, related to the challenge of evaluating both the quality and usefulness of findings derived through qualitative methods. This discussion paper explores these issues. It examines some of the most frequently used techniques aimed at ensuring quality and value in qualitative research, such as sampling, triangulation, multiple coding, respondent validation and the use of audit trails, as well as addressing reflexivity. Because of the pluralistic and interactive nature of qualitative inquiry, the criteria used to judge quality need to be appropriate to each piece of research and should provide evidence to help readers to evaluate the calibre of the study and its relevance to their own area of work.


Waterfield, J., & Johnson, R. (2004). Making words count: the value of qualitative research. Physiotherapy Research International, 9(3), 121-131.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Jan 1, 2004
Journal Physiotherapy research international : the journal for researchers and clinicians in physical therapy
Print ISSN 1358-2267
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 3
Pages 121-131
Keywords physical therapy, qualitative research, rigour
Public URL
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