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S28: Qualitative Methods in the Research of CAM and IM: Practical Tools for Integrating a Qualitative Approach into Your Research

10:30 - 12:00, Tuttle

Sonya Pritzker (1), Shelley Adler (2), Marian Katz (1)

(1): University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), United States         

(2): University of California San Francisco (UCSF), United States


At the 2012 International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health, there was extensive discussion about how research in CAM and IM must move beyond the traditional randomized clinical trial (RCT).  Qualitative research methods, along with observational studies and whole systems trials, were mentioned by several participants, but were not covered in great detail. This proposed workshop offers a practical introduction to the basic methodologies of qualitative research.  Qualitative research includes multiple overlapping approaches, including narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, case studies, and ethnography. These approaches share a common emphasis on gathering and analyzing data in the form of observations, texts, detailed interviews, oral histories, video/audio recordings of interactions, and/or participant diaries in order to systematically and accurately understand the meaning of events for participants (Cassidy 2001: 152), and to validate or interrogate the findings of quantitative research studies. In CAM and IM in particular, qualitative research is well-suited to capture complex phenomena holistically (Portrata 2005: 131). This can both clarify effects that are not well-understood, and generate further questions and hypotheses that can be tested using quantitative or mixed-methods designs (Cassidy 2001). Examples include why, when, and how people use CAM or IM, including their complex motivations and where they get information; the long-term effect of IM use on peoples’ lifestyles and behavior; the details of patient/provider relationships and other so-called “non-specific” elements of healing; and many more. In this workshop, we will present the basic methodologies of qualitative research in a simple format with multiple references for further reading.  The bulk of the workshop will be spent discussing attendees’ research questions, and providing topic-specific consultation on how qualitative research would add to the depth of their work, which methods would be most appropriate, and how to further develop their questions.