Research Article

Opening the black box: an encounter in the corridors of health services research.

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 30 January 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:315
  1. C Pope,
  2. N Mays
  1. Department of Public Health Medicine, United Medical and Dental School, St Thomas's Hospital, London.


    Health services research has become more prominent as a result of the NHS reforms. Both providers and purchasers want to know exactly where the money is spent and how it could be used more effectively. How best to obtain information about health services is the subject of some debate within and between disciplines engaged in such research. Because of their training doctors are often sceptical of anything other than formal clinical trials and research which produces statistical data. Some sociologists argue that another way to find out what is actually happening in the NHS is to observe people at work and talk to them. This article debates these differing views of research methods. For effective research both quantitative and qualitative approaches need to be used.