The why, the what and the so what of a qualitative empirical research article
Keywords:health professional education, academic writing, qualitative research
AbstractThe medical literature is dominated by clinical and laboratory sciences, and therefore, the social studies of medicine genre will be harder to decipher for health professional education researchers from a clinical background and other similar newcomers. In the medical literature, the typical format for articles follows a strict sequence known as Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion, or simply the IMRaD format. In social studies of medicine, however, qualitative research articles are typically less clearly structured. Headings and subheadings are used to communicate the argument but do not necessarily carry titles that easily match the IMRaD elements. This is made more confusing when many qualitative researchers propagate a sense of “anything goes” (more or less) in terms of structure in order to give space for creativity. However, while it is true that there are not strict rules, the idea that there are no conventions at all can sometimes lead novice qualitative researchers astray, and they can become overly creative. Articles in the field of the social study of medicine (especially anthropology, sociology, science and technology studies (STS) and qualitative public health) do, in most cases, follow a particular logic and structure. This paper is about that hidden structure and the logic that justifies it. Its aim is to help newcomers to the field to build their arguments well and to assist people in other areas of medicine to better understand qualitative research articles.
Ballestero, A., & Winthereik, B. R. (2021). Analysis as experimental practice. In A. Ballestero & B. R. Winthereik (Eds.), Experimenting with ethnography. A companion to analysis (pp. 1–12). Duke University Press.
Brown, N., & Webster, A. (2004). New medical technologies and society: Recording life. Polity. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1369-7625.2004.00305.x
Gishen, F., & Lokugamage, A. (2019). Diversifying the medical curriculum. BMJ, 364, Article l300. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l300
Janes, C. R. (2017). A reflection on medical anthropology and epidemiology. Medicine Anthropology Theory, 4(2), 50–59. https://doi.org/10.17157/mat.4.2.501
Kaltenbrunner, W., Birch, K., Van Leeuwen, T., & Amuchastegui, M. (2022). Changing publication practices and the typification of the journal article in science and technology studies. Social Studies of Science, 52(5), 758–782. https://doi.org/10.1177/03063127221110623
Lingard, L., & Watling, C. (2021). Story, not study: 30 brief lessons to inspire health researchers as writers. Springer International.
Malterud, K. (2001). Qualitative research: Standards, challanges and guidelines. The Lancet, 358, 483–488. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(01)05627-6
Sword, H. (2012). Stylish academic writing. Harvard University Press.
Timmermans, S., & Tavory, I. (2012). Theory construction in qualitative research: From grounded theory to abductive analysis. Sociological Theory, 30(3), 167–186. https://doi.org/10.1177/0735275112457914
Varpio, L., Ajjawi, R., Monrouxe, L. V., O'Brien, B. C., & Rees, C. E. (2017). Shedding the cobra effect: Problematising thematic emergence, triangulation, saturation and member checking. Medical Education, 51(1), 40–50. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.13124
Wadmann, S., Holm-Petersen, C., & Levay, C. (2019). “We don't like the rules and still we keep seeking new ones”: The vicious circle of quality control in professional organizations. Journal of Professions and Organization, 6(1), 17–32. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpo/joy017
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
On acceptance for publication in FoHPE the copyright of the manuscript is signed over to ANZAHPE, the publisher of FoHPE.