Our Centre for Trials Research qualitative team are a group of experienced qualitative researchers and PhD students with varied backgrounds in fields such as social science, psychology and linguistics.
We design and carry out both stand-alone qualitative studies, and process evaluations of trials using the Medical Research Council (MRC) guidance.
Our group also works with qualitative researchers based in:
- the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
- the Division of Population Health in the School of Medicine
- the Public Health Improvement Research Network (PHIRN).
Qualitative research methods
Doing research using qualitative methods allows us to look below the surface. We are able to focus more closely on ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions relating to trials research, and we are able to both examine and highlight the trial research participants’ point of view. In order to gather the kind of information we need to do this, we use a wide range of data gathering methods including, for example:
- observations, conducted as a participant or non-participant observer
- interviews, conducted via telephone or face-to-face, sometimes using visual methods
- focus group discussions
- audio or video-recorded interactions
- diaries, blogs and forum contributions
- public discourse, as available on TV and radio, newspapers and magazines, or policy documents.
Qualitative data can be analysed in various ways, with the particular method depending on the aim of the study and the specific research questions we are trying to answer. Below is a small selection of the approaches used in current and planned Centre for Trials Research trials and studies:
- content analysis
- framework analysis
- grounded theory
- narrative analysis
- discourse analysis.
These are often combined with quantitative data analysis within the same study, using a mixed methods approach.
Benefits of qualitative methods
We use qualitative methods in trials because they allow us to “reach the parts that other methods cannot reach” (Pope and Mays 1995). They can help us to address questions which are not easily or not completely answered by quantitative methods.
Qualitative methods can enhance, elaborate or clarify trial findings and help us address questions relating to issues such as:
- unusual or unexpected trial results
- participants’ refusal to enrol in a trial
- participants’ early withdrawal from a trial
- non-compliance to a trial methodology.
When used within process evaluations, they allow us to develop a more complete picture of what went on during a trial, enriching our understanding and bringing greater credibility to trials research.
Current and recent studies
Qualitative Research Network
Each month members of the CTR qualitative team meet with staff and students from across the university and partner organisations for the Qualitative Research Network meeting. The network is an informal space within which members can present and discuss research findings, share ideas and questions relating to the broad field of qualitative research, and receive feedback and advice on study design and methodological approaches.
Recent meetings have been used to discuss study findings relating to patient experiences of dementia, explore the use of qualitative research methods during the Covid-19 pandemic (a joint session with the Medicine, Science and Culture group), discuss the effect of diagnostic labels in psychiatry, and to help inform the design of research on communication in neonatal care.
The network is open to anyone with an interest in qualitative research; membership has recently expanded to include a greater number of staff and students from Psychology, Social Sciences, and English, Communication and Philosophy, as well as researchers from external HE organisations and NHS staff.
Meetings are currently held online (by Zoom) and remote/online access will be made available for all members if any future meetings are held face-to-face. If you would like to join the network and receive information on future meetings, please contact the network lead, Dr Heather Strange.
Head of qualitative research
Our portfolio of work includes drugs trials and complex interventions, mechanisms of disease and treatments, cohort studies and informing policy and practice.