Understanding and evaluating qualitative research

Ellie Fossey, Carol Harvey, Fiona McDermott, Larry Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

935 Citations (Scopus)


Qualitative research aims to address questions concerned with developing an understanding of the meaning and experience dimensions of humans' lives and social worlds. Central to good qualitative research is whether the research participants' subjective meanings, actions and social contexts, as understood by them, are illuminated. This paper aims to provide beginning researchers, and those unfamiliar with qualitative research, with an orientation to the principles that inform the evaluation of the design, conduct, findings and interpretation of qualitative research. It orients the reader to two philosophical perspectives, the interpretive and critical research paradigms, which underpin both the qualitative research methodologies most often used in mental health research, and how qualitative research is evaluated. Criteria for evaluating quality are interconnected with standards for ethics in qualitative research. They include principles for good practice in the conduct of qualitative research, and for trustworthiness in the interpretation of qualitative data. The paper reviews these criteria, and discusses how they may be used to evaluate qualitative research presented in research reports. These principles also offer some guidance about the conduct of sound qualitative research for the beginner qualitative researcher.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-732
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Qualitative evidence
  • Qualitative method
  • Research appraisal

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