Qualitative research methods in medical dissertations: an observational methodological study on prevalence and reporting quality of dissertation abstracts in a German university
SourceBMC Medical Research Methodology, 20, 1, (2020), article 301
Article / Letter to editor
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BMC Medical Research Methodology
SubjectRadboudumc 16: Vascular damage RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
BACKGROUND: Qualitative methods offer a unique contribution to health research. Academic dissertations in the medical field provide an opportunity to explore research practice. Our aim was to assess the use of qualitative methods in dissertations in the medical field. METHODS: By means of a methodological observational study, an analysis of all academic medical dissertations' abstracts between 1998 and 2018 in a repository databank of a large medical university faculty in Germany was performed. This included MD dissertations (Dr. med. (dent.)) and medical science dissertations (Dr. sc. hum.). All abstracts including "qualitativ*" were screened for studies using qualitative research methods. Data were extracted from abstracts using a category grid considering a) general characteristics (year, language, degree type), b) discipline, c) study design (mixed methods/qualitative only, data conduction, data analysis), d) sample (size and participants) and e) technologies used (data analysis software and recording technology). Thereby reporting quality was assessed. RESULTS: In total, 103 abstracts of medical dissertations between 1998 and 2018 (1.4% of N = 7619) were included, 60 of MD dissertations and 43 of medical sciences dissertations. Half of the abstracts (n = 51) referred to dissertations submitted since 2014. Most abstracts related to public health/hygiene (n = 27) and general practice (n = 26), followed by medical psychology (n = 19). About half of the studies (n = 47) used qualitative research methods exclusively, the other half (n = 56) used mixed methods. For data collection, primarily individual interviews were used (n = 80), followed by group interviews (n = 33) and direct observation (n = 11). Patients (n = 36), physicians (n = 36) and healthcare professionals (n = 17) were the most frequent research participants. Incomplete reporting of participants and data analysis was common (n = 67). Nearly half of the abstracts (n = 46) lacked information on how data was analysed, most of the remaining (n = 43) used some form of content analysis. In summary, 36 abstracts provided all crucial data (participants, sample size,; data collection and analysis method). CONCLUSION: A small number of academic dissertations used qualitative research methods. About a third of these reported all key aspects of the methods used in the abstracts. Further research on the quality of choice and reporting of methods for qualitative research in dissertations is recommended.
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