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Reflections on “Helping practitioners understand the contribution of qualitative research to evidence-based practice”
  1. Sally Thorne, RN, PhD4
  1. University of British Columbia, School of NursingVancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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Although I congratulate Newman et al for bravely taking up the challenge that wading through the mire of qualitatively derived evidence entails, I find that their ultimate argument leaves me with more confusion than clarity. I fully agree with many of the excellent points they raise, but I would certainly take issue with others. However, reflecting on the thesis of their argument, I realise that the important conversation is not to argue the specific claims they make about qualitative research, its application, or its evaluation, but rather to examine the reasons that they are explaining these in the first place. Sometimes the greatest service a thoughtful paper can provide is sufficient discomfort to provoke further critical thinking. In that light, I hope that my response is understood as a beginning dialogue toward finding the clarity that we all aspire to within this complex, but ultimately fascinating, question.

Newman et al have usefully articulated many of the current confusions and contradictions within the existing literature on what constitutes qualitative research, the criteria against which its quality can be determined, and the context within which its products can be reasonably taken up to inform clinical practice. They alert us to the taxonomy of methodological approaches that appear in our nursing literature (and the interdisciplinary literature upon which we draw) with regard to distinctions among and between these approaches and the manner in which they are actually applied. Quite rightly, they note that there are often far fewer distinctions between methods claiming to draw upon distinct approaches than would be anticipated. However, I would take issue with their conclusion that these methods are not all that dissimilar from one another after all. From my perspective, the problem is that none of these conventional qualitative methods were developed for quite the purposes that nurses …

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