The role of qualitative research in oral and maxillofacial surgery

Published:January 21, 2022DOI:


      Oral and maxillofacial research has utilised predominantly quantitative research approaches and qualitative methodologies have been applied with very narrow scope. Although qualitative surgical research is increasing in popularity there is a lack of patient voice within extant research and important aspects of patients’ experiences including preparation, perceptions of well-being, and functional outcomes are potentially overlooked. This provides researchers with significant opportunities to devise approaches that expand our understanding of the social contexts surrounding surgical interventions and associated outcomes and to develop better-informed approaches to research and practice. Reflecting on a novel research project involving OMFS patients this paper seeks to outline some distinct advantages of qualitative research based on researcher reflections. Firstly, we contend that understanding patients as collaborators within the research process helps to establish a research design that reflects the context and complexities of the phenomenon under investigation and increases the precision of the concepts being addressed. Secondly, interactive group-based data collection approaches create a space in which patients are able to explore aspects relating to OMFS. Thirdly, we suggest that patient interaction optimises the quality of data by providing participants with the opportunity to engage in conversation with those who understand the treatment processes. The final advantage concerns the intentional involvement of patients within the data analysis phase. We contend that interactive approaches to data collection and analysis where data are collected, analysed, compared and refined as new data are acquired helps to develop a conceptual explanation for the phenomenon in question that is both significant and relevant to the setting being studied. We conclude with recommendations for future research.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Pope C.
        • van Royen P.
        • Baker R.
        Qualitative methods in research on healthcare quality.
        BMJ Qual Saf. 2002; 11: 148-152
        • Guest G.
        • Namey E.E.
        • Mitchell M.L.
        Collecting Qualitative Data: A Field Manual for Applied Research.
        Sage, London2013
      1. Rolfe DE, Ramsden VR, Banner D, Graham ID. Using qualitative Health Research methods to improve patient and public involvement and engagement in research. Res Involv Engagem. 2018;13;4:49. Available from: doi: 10.1186/s40900-018-0129-8. PMID: 30564459.

        • Sparkes A.C.
        • Smith B.
        Qualitative Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Health: From Process to Product.
        Routledge, London2013
      2. Rolfe D.E, Ramsden V.R, Banner D, Graham I.D. Using qualitative Health Research methods to improve patient and public involvement and engagement in research. Res Involv Engagem. 2018; 13;4:49. Available from: doi: 10.1186/s40900-018-0129-8.

        • Creswell J.W.
        Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches.
        4th ed. Sage, Thousand Oaks2012
        • Creswell J.W.
        • Hanson W.E.
        • Clark Plano V.L.
        • Morales A.
        Qualitative Research Designs: Selection and Implementation.
        Couns Psychol. 2007; 35: 236-264
        • Pope C.
        • van Royen P.
        • Baker R.
        Qualitative methods in research on healthcare quality.
        Qual Saf Health Care. 2002; 11: 148-152
        • Peditto K.
        Reporting Qualitative Research: Standards, Challenges, and Implications for Health Design.
        HERD. 2018; 11: 16-19
      3. Gullick JG, West SH. Building research capacity and productivity among advanced practice nurses: an evaluation of the Community of Practice model. J Adv Nurs. 2016;72(3): 605-19. Available from: doi: 10.1111/jan.12850.

      4. Maragh-Bass AC, Appelson JR, Changoor NR, Austin Davis W, Haider AH, Morris, MA. Prioritizing qualitative research in surgery: A synthesis and analysis of publication trends. Surg. 2016; 60(6); 1447-1455. Available from:

      5. Pope C, Ziebland S, Mays N. Analysing qualitative data. BMJ. 2000;320:14 Available from: doi:10.1136/bmj.320.7227.114.

      6. Lahtinen S, Koivunen P, Ala-Kokko T, Kaarela O, Ohtonen P, Laurila P, et al. Short- and long-term mortality and causes of death after reconstruction of cancers of the head and neck with free flaps. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):21-28. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.12.004.

      7. Park JH, Kim HS, Choi SH, Jung YS, Jung HD. Changes in position of the hyoid bone and volume of the pharyngeal airway after mandibular setback: three-dimensional analysis. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):29-35. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.12.003.

      8. Edetanlen EB, Saheeb BD. Otitis media with effusion in Nigerian children with cleft palate: incidence and risk factors. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):36-40. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.11.015.

      9. Keskinruzgar A, Yapici Yavuz G, Koparal M, Cag I, Utkun M, Gedik E. Evaluation of biochemical variables in patients with trigeminal neuralgia. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):72-75. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.11.012.

      10. Jinno Y, Jimbo R, Hjalmarsson J, Johansson K, Stavropoulos A, Becktor JP. Impact of surface contamination of implants with saliva during placement in augmented bone defects in sheep calvaria. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):41-46. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.11.014.

      11. Yazan M, Kocyigit ID, Atil F, Tekin U, Gonen ZB, Onder ME. Effect of hyaluronic acid on the osseointegration of dental implants. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):53-57. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.08.014.

      12. Antony PG, Sebastian A, Annapoorani D, Varghese KG, Mohan S, Jayakumar N, Dominic S, John B. Comparison of clinical outcomes of treatment of dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint between conventional and ultrasound-guided arthrocentesis. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):62-66. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.11.007.

      13. Meena, JK, Jakhetiya A. Pandey A. Qualitative Research in Surgical Disciplines: Need and Scope. Indian J Surg. 2021;83, 3–8 (2021). Available from:

      14. Fitzgerald R, Smyth A. Velopharyngeal insufficiency after maxillary advancement in patients with cleft palate - a survey of risk assessment in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):58-61. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.11.006.

        • Ahmed N.
        • McVicar I.H.
        • Mitchell D.A.
        Simulation-based training in maxillofacial surgery: are we going to be left behind?.
        Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019; 57: 67-71
      15. Visram SM, Gill D, Shute JT, Cunningham SJ. Qualitative study to identify issues affecting quality of life in adults with craniofacial anomalies. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(1):47-52. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.06.011.

      16. Gale NK, Heath G., Cameron E, Rashid S, Redwood S. Using the framework method for the analysis of qualitative data in multi-disciplinary health research. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2013;13,117. Available from:

      17. Baker C, Courtney P, Knepil G. Evaluating societal outcomes of orthognathic surgery: an innovative application of the Social Return on Investment methodology to patients after orthognathic treatment. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2019;57(2):145-150. Available from: doi: 10.1016/j.bjoms.2018.12.011.

        • Aeron-Thomas D.
        • Nicholls J.
        • Forster S.
        • Westall A.
        Social Return on Investment: Valuing what matters.
        New Economics Foundation, London2004
      18. Rising KL., LaNoue M, Gentsch AT. et al. The power of the group: comparison of interviews and group concept mapping for identifying patient-important outcomes of care. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2019;19(7). Available from:

      19. Braun V, Clarke V. Thematic analysis. In H. Cooper, P. M. Camic, D. L. Long, A. T. Panter, D. Rindskopf, & K. J. Sher (Eds.), APA handbook of research methods in psychology, Vol. 2. Research designs: Quantitative, qualitative, neuropsychological, and biological (pp. 57–71). American Psychological Association; 2012.

      20. QSR International Pty Ltd. NVivo qualitative data analysis software, Version 12. 2018.

      21. Meena JK, Jakhetiya A, Pandey A. Qualitative Research in Surgical Disciplines: Need and Scope. Indian J Surg. 2021;83,3–8. Available from: