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Conducting qualitative research in the British Armed Forces: theoretical, analytical and ethical implications
  1. Alan Finnegan
  1. Correspondence to Col Alan Finnegan, Academic Department of Military Nursing at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham Research Park, Birmingham B15 2SQ, UK; Alan.finnegan526{at}mod.uk

Abstract

The aim of qualitative research is to produce empirical evidence with data collected through means such as interviews and observation. Qualitative research encourages diversity in the way of thinking and the methods used. Good studies produce a richness of data to provide new knowledge or address extant problems. However, qualitative research resulting in peer review publications within the Defence Medical Services (DMS) is a rarity. This article aims to help redress this balance by offering direction regarding qualitative research in the DMS with a focus on choosing a theoretical framework, analysing the data and ethical approval. Qualitative researchers need an understanding of the paradigms and theories that underpin methodological frameworks, and this article includes an overview of common theories in phenomenology, ethnography and grounded theory, and their application within the military. It explains qualitative coding: the process used to analyse data and shape the analytical framework. A popular four phase approach with examples from an operational nursing research study is presented. Finally, it tackles the issue of ethical approval for qualitative studies and offers direction regarding the research proposal and participant consent. The few qualitative research studies undertaken in the DMS have offered innovative insights into defence healthcare providing information to inform and change educational programmes and clinical practice. This article provides an extra resource for clinicians to encourage studies that will improve the operational capability of the British Armed Forces. It is anticipated that these guidelines are transferable to research in other Armed Forces and the military Veterans population.

  • Qualitative Research
  • Audit
  • Education & Training (see Medical Education & Training)
  • Received December 11, 2013.
  • Accepted December 14, 2013.

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