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Qualitative Methods in Epidemiology

  • In: Encyclopedia of Epidemiology
  • Edited by: Sarah Boslaugh
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Health Research Methods , Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Qualitative methods (QM) are used to explore a wide range of experiences in epidemiology and public health. These methods examine the depths of experience to identify why or how complex events happen, and they are particularly useful for exploring new and complicated topics. Characteristics of QM studies generally include field contact and are intended to provide a holistic perspective. If an estimate of the magnitude of a problem is needed, QM will not be useful. Generalizability from the purposive sample (which samples the topic of interest) to the general population is not a goal of QM research.

The goals of QM are usually exploratory and descriptive, with the aim of understanding and describing a phenomenon and focusing on perceptions of the ‘lived experience’ from the perspective ...

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