Intended for healthcare professionals


An open letter to The BMJ editors on qualitative research

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 10 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i563

Re: An open letter to The BMJ editors on qualitative research

BMJ’s policy of rejecting qualitative research is partly based on the journal’s claim that such studies are not widely accessed or cited as other research. This may lead to the interpretation that qualitative research is lacking in practical value, or not of interest to readers. It is not surprising that qualitative research articles are unlikely to be highly cited. However, I suspect this may be partially related to the difficulty of locating these articles than to the quality and potential impact of these articles. A number of journals that publish articles based on qualitative research, for example, Qualitative Inquiry, are not indexed in biomedical search engines such as PubMed so articles within them would not be identified by someone doing a literature search in these search engines.

One strategy to improve citation rates of qualitative research is to have articles individually indexed in a search engine such as PubMed. In Canada, if your qualitative research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, you are able to upload the article to PubMed Central Canada, an archive which then makes the article searchable in PubMed. Thus, the article becomes accessible to a larger audience of medical and health services researchers. I urge qualitative researchers to check with their funding agencies to determine if similar agreements exist between the funding agency and common repositories in order to better disseminate their research. Alternatively, they can advocate to have their journals of choice indexed in PubMed if they are not already indexed in PubMed.

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 March 2016
Joanna E.M. Sale
Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital
30 Bond Street, Toronto ON, Canada M5B 1W8