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Fieldwork and the practical implications for completing qualitative research in the British Armed Forces
  1. Alan Finnegan
  1. Correspondence to Col Alan Finnegan, L/QARANC, Academic Department of Military Nursing, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham Research Park, Vincent Drive, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2SQ, UK; Alan.finnegan526{at}mod.uk

Abstract

This article provides direction regarding the practical implications of undertaking qualitative research within the British Army, and in particular the Defence Medical Services (DMS). Qualitative researchers must gather sufficient data to answer their research question, and guidance on using DMS healthcare professionals as the research sample is offered, including dealing with the ‘gatekeepers’ who control access, and the principles for creating a conducive environment to gather reliable data. Data collection is often through intensive interviewing where communication skills and personal awareness are vital to a successful study. Aids to a productive study include memo writing and listing factors that may later provide an insight into how the interviewees characterise and describe particular activities, events and groups. Guidance is offered to develop an interview schedule with questions related to each other in a seamless, meaningful way. Both the researcher's and participant's conscious and unconscious biases must be acknowledged. In this narrow and specialist field, DMS researchers need extensive knowledge of clinical practice and the military's distinctive language, characterised with nuances and abbreviations. These words portray meanings and perspectives that signpost the participants’ view of their empirical world. Early identification, without having to seek clarification, means that the researcher can examine hidden assumptions in the sample’s own language.

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