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This White Paper aims to shine a light on how qualitative methods are being used in health services and medical research contexts, and how they might be used more effectively. It aims to fire the reader’s imagination by revealing the scope of qualitative methods across a range of studies, and the impact of qualitative methods on research outcomes and healthcare practices. In this monograph you will learn about current methods in use, and how they are making a difference to healthcare practice. These include some lesser-known biographical and photographic methods. You will also learn about the way in which research results are being implemented to improve patient safety and the quality of care.

At the same time, we examine some of the more challenging and controversial aspects of applying qualitative methods in healthcare contexts, in the hope of raising awareness of some of the ethical issues with which qualitative researchers grapple. These include how to ensure findings are trustworthy and reliable, and how to encourage outcomes that are transferable across contexts, ready for upscaling. By so doing, we want to present the argument that qualitative methods can broach not only aspects of more routine clinical care, but also lesser-known healthcare practices.

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