Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters The BMJ and qualitative research

Taking up the proposal of allocating one slot a month for a year to qualitative research

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 15 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1469
  1. Michel Accad, physician and medical director
  1. Athletic Heart of San Francisco (AHSF), San Francisco, CA 94109, USA
  1. draccad{at}

I recommend that The BMJ takes up Greenhalgh and colleagues’ proposal of allocating one slot a month for a year to qualitative research, even if the journal is sceptical of that methodology.1

In a sense, the proposal is also an experiment that can test the claims of qualitative research. For at the end of that year, if the outcome is considered successful, it might be possible to see if the success can be expressed solely on the basis of qualitative language and terms, whatever these may be, or if it is inevitably gauged by quantitative measures (such as numbers of citations, readers’ comments, article downloads).

If the first applies, the proponents would have unequivocally made their case: qualitative research can stand its own ground. But if the second is true, the authors may need to admit that short of a paradigm shift in our common understanding of what constitutes empirical science, the chasm between the qualitators and the quantitators is too great to be bridged by a journal that must necessarily commit to certain methodological standards.


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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