The why, the what and the so what of a qualitative empirical research article


  • Klaus Hoeyer University of Copenhagen
  • Margaret Bearman Deakin University



health professional education, academic writing, qualitative research


The 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.


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How to Cite

Hoeyer, K., & Bearman, M. (2023). The why, the what and the so what of a qualitative empirical research article. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 24(3), 95–105.



Focus on Methodology