BioScience Trends. 2009;3(6):202-209.

Characteristics of qualitative studies in influential journals of general medicine: a critical review.

Yamazaki H, Slingsby BT, Takahashi M, Hayashi Y, Sugimori H, Nakayama T


Although qualitative studies have increased since the 1990s, some reports note that relatively few influential journals published them up until 2000. This study critically reviewed the characteristics of qualitative studies published in top tier medical journals since 2000. We assessed full texts of qualitative studies published between 2000 and 2004 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, BMJ, JAMA, Lancet, and New England Journal of Medicine. We found 80 qualitative studies, of which 73 (91%) were published in BMJ. Only 10 studies (13%) combined qualitative and quantitative methods. Sixty-two studies (78%) used only one method of data collection. Interviews dominated the choice of data collection. The median sample size was 36 (range: 9-383). Thirty-three studies (41%) did not specify the type of analysis used but rather described the analytic process in detail. The rest indicated the mode of data analysis, in which the most prevalent methods were the constant comparative method (23%) and the grounded theory approach (22%). Qualitative data analysis software was used by 33 studies (41%). Among influential journals of general medicine, only BMJ consistently published an average of 15 qualitative study reports between 2000 and 2004. These findings lend insight into what qualities and characteristics make a qualitative study worthy of consideration to be published in an influential journal, primarily BMJ.

KEYWORDS: Qualitative study, general medicine, data collection/analysis methods

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